Most retailers use a first-in, first-out system to rotate produce put out on display.
But over the past decade, Jeffrey Brecht, a University of Florida, Gainesville, horticultural sciences professor, and a team have found the system often increases the possibility of consumer waste, according to a news release.
Strawberry shipments with short shelf lives are kept in storage while ones with longer shelf lives are put out for sale.
The result is fruit goes bad soon after consumers buy it. Throughout the United States, more than half of all produce is wasted.
Brecht and his group have developed a shelf-life computer model that takes into account variables, such as temperature at harvest, heat exposure during shipment unloading, and cooling systems in distribution centers and stores.
Under a research project being funded by the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative, the researchers will measure temperature variability in at least 15 Walmart strawberry shipments from Florida and California to different parts of the country. They will use the shelf-life model to determine which shipments to put on store shelves first.
The researchers will follow up with consumer surveys to measure strawberry quality.
“A lot of the time you have strawberries on display that look really good, but are not necessarily of great quality,” Brecht said in the release. “With better distribution, we hope for more long-term quality so the fruit will actually be eaten.”
The National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative is funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and administered by the University of Arkansas.