“Sell By” Dates Cost Shippers Billions in Wasted Perishable Goods

Every milk carton and other perishable packaged food item bears date-stamped tags such as "Display Until," "Best Until," and "Sell By." Did you know that these dates are not intended for consumer use, and do not indicate when the food is spoiled? They are only intended for retailer use. Yet billions of dollars worth of food is wasted annually because this information misleads consumers and retail employees alike.

Business logistics professionals and shippers are creating waste within the marketplace by branding perishable foods with vague information that is not relevant to the consumer.

The easy answer to this problem is to educate consumers about what data they should heed when deciding whether food has gone bad. It would be even easier, however, to remove the misleading information entirely.

"Sell By" tagging is outdated. The millions of dollars in wasted inventory should spur both shippers and retailers to set standards within their supply chains to guard against the "weakest link in the chain."

Shippers and business logistics professionals can easily use bar codes rather than ink stamps to ensure fresh food items are delivered to customers, and stay on the shelf until they are ready to be rotated out.

Sensitizing products throughout the supply chain also comes with ancillary benefits. Modern supply chains are able to glean insights from their inventory for planograms, category assortment, and even what items should go on sale. Transparency is key within the supply chain, and those that do not know which products are about to go bad and which are still good put themselves in a position to leave money on the table—or in their dumpsters.

The lesson is obvious: keep product labeling simple. Consumers will make the right decisions if they are given the right guidance, so shippers and business logistics professionals should do their best to eliminate any misleading information. Companies interested in taking back the billions of dollars being wasted every year in non-spoiled goods, should look to fix this simple problem first and foremost. Challenge partners and retailers alike to modernize their supply chain and better understand their own inventory — their diminishing costs and rising revenues will thank you.

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