EUROPE – Supermarkets across Europe have initiated the integration of AI-based freshness scanners, aiming to potentially revolutionize the shopping experience by allowing consumers to ascertain the ripeness of various fruits before purchase.

Dozens of these innovative devices have already been deployed in branches of major chains like Jumbo in the Netherlands and Migros in Switzerland, with additional installations reported in Spain.

The forthcoming weeks will witness one of Germany’s largest retail chains embarking on a pilot project to evaluate the efficacy of the system. Talks are also underway to introduce this technology to stores in the UK.

Presently, these scanners are exclusively calibrated to assess the ripeness of avocados. However, plans are in motion to extend their capabilities to evaluate other fruits such as mangoes, melons, and kiwifruits.

Despite initial skepticism within certain circles regarding consumers employing AI for in-store product assessments, this development is far from a mere April Fool’s joke.

Marco Snikkers, representing Dutch company OneThird, which developed the scanners’ shelf-life prediction technology, affirms the legitimacy and the positive reception of this innovation.

He remarks, “It’s real, it’s happening. To be honest, we’re totally overwhelmed and surprised by the positive feedback we have got.”

The genesis of interest in these scanners as a consumer-facing tool stemmed from retailers’ concerns about shoppers manually inspecting avocados for ripeness, potentially causing damage that renders them unsellable.

“We were skeptical at first,” Snikkers admits, emphasizing that OneThird’s previous focus was primarily on ripeness checking systems integrated further along fresh produce supply chains. “So, we’ve been really careful to go step by step, to test it behind the scenes.”

Following a successful small-scale trial at a Jumbo store, demand for these scanners burgeoned rapidly. Snikkers elaborates, “Consumers love it. It’s something new in the store and it brings excitement. Our customers say they are increasing their sales of avocados.”

As interest mounts, retailers are inquiring about the feasibility of extending the scanner’s capabilities to include other fruits.

Snikkers acknowledges the potential but underscores the time-intensive nature of the process due to the AI-based system’s dependence on data. “On mangoes, we already have quite a lot of data. So I think we will be able to release that relatively soon. On melons and kiwifruit, that’s going to take a little bit longer.”

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