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How can retailers make pumpkin waste pulp fiction this Halloween?

Consumers are hungry for holiday season festivities, but sick and tired of waste: it is time retailers took responsibility.

Consumers have been under pressure this year, from the cost of living crisis to conflicts like the war in Ukraine. As the season changes and days feel shorter, holidays like Halloween offer a welcome and well received uplift. However, it is time to celebrate more sustainably without adding to the world’s environmental crisis. The remedy to consumers’ spirits shouldn’t be a poison to the planet.

Reports state that 60% of UK consumers buying pumpkins fail to use them for food, leaving 450 million kilograms of pumpkin as waste. A study from Hubbu has stated that 83% of Halloween costumes made from non recyclable oil based plastics end up at landfill sites. Seven million costumes are discarded yearly, generating 2000 tonnes of plastic waste, which equates to 83 million plastic bottles. But it is time to stop blaming the consumer; retailers need to step up and effectively cut the head off the snake by reducing waste at the source: the supply chain.

According to supply chain and retail planning platform provider Relex, AI forecasting and planning solutions can optimise retailers’ supply chain and merchandising processes, reducing waste across peak seasons such as Halloween.

Svante Gothe, head of sustainability at Relex, said: ‘With the help of AI, retailers can get highly accurate demand forecasts by automatically capturing the impact of hundreds of demand drivers. Businesses have visibility into future demand, allowing for improved planning processes across merchandising, supply chain, and operations, leading to reduced waste.

‘Retailers must navigate a delicate balance of reducing their environmental impact while continuing to meet customer needs and expectations. At Halloween, fresh retailers are tasked with managing a supply chain full of pumpkins, which pose a high risk of spoiling. What doesn’t get sold might quickly end up in the waste bin.’

AI use cases in retail include demand planning – capturing hundreds of demand drivers to predict future sales patterns, inventory planning – automating replenishment and allocation tasks in all nodes of the supply chain, collaborative planning – sharing the plans throughout the supply, chain to minimise the risk of waste and markdown and clearance optimisation – automatically optimising prices throughout the season to avoid excess stock.

Svante continued, ‘Across the Halloween season, it is not as simple as one might think. Halloween pumpkins create a distinct challenge in taking roughly 90 to 120 days to grow, meaning decisions on how many to produce must happen months before Halloween.

‘Even with the addition of AI tools to supply chain planning optimally, there is a risk of overproduction and waste upstream in the supply chain if the plans and forecasts are not shared with the producers. Collaboration is vital, and when forecasts and planned orders are shared in advance throughout the supply chain, the risk of overproduction becomes smaller.’

He concluded, ‘Inflation and increased economic uncertainty for consumers will make it harder for retailers to plan their Halloween volumes. AI tools are vital in the race against food waste reduction, with tools saving an estimated 11 million kilograms of food globally in 2023. By taking the right steps and adopting the right tools, retailers can ensure they are on track to achieve sustainable supply chain practices.

‘AI isn’t the magic wand, but it is a magic tool of sorts: with a unified plan in place across retail organisations, and the shared goal of reducing waste, it is now not just possible, but the only sensible business strategy.’


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