How To Manage Perishable Inventory: 10 Key Tips and Tools

Nothing spoils profits faster than spoiled inventory. For grocers, perishable stock that goes bad before selling puts an instant dent in the bottom line.

Attempting to manually track short shelf life items across suppliers, shipments, and stock rooms leaves too much room for waste and loss. Before you know it, you’re tossing cases of expired food and taking write-offs as customers walk out over empty shelves. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

This post will serve as a quick reference guide for how to manage perishable inventory. We’ll provide you with expert tips and then walk through five tools you can use to make perishable inventory management less of a headache for your store. 

How To Manage Perishable Inventory: Expert Tips 

Operating a grocery store is challenging for many reasons, but one of the most significant challenges grocery store owners face is managing perishable inventory. With the constant risk of shrinkage due to spoilage and the need for just-in-time inventory management, it's crucial to have effective strategies in place to minimize waste and maximize profitability.

Why is it so difficult to manage perishable inventory? Carrying products with a short shelf life means that even a slight miscalculation in ordering or a delay in selling can result in significant losses. Additionally, with consumers becoming increasingly conscious of food freshness and quality, maintaining just-in-time inventory levels is more important than ever.

Expert Tips for How To Manage Perishable Inventory 

  1. Implement First In, First Out (FIFO) Methodology:
    The FIFO principle is the golden rule of perishable inventory management. By ensuring that older items are sold before newer ones, you can significantly reduce the risk of spoilage and waste.
    Train your staff to regularly rotate stock, placing newer items behind older ones on shelves and refrigerated units. This simple practice can go a long way in minimizing losses and maintaining product freshness.

    Related Read: How Do Grocery Stores Track Inventory?

  2. Monitor Expiry Dates Closely:
    Keeping a close eye on expiration dates is essential for effective perishable inventory management. Implement a system for regularly checking expiry dates and flagging items nearing their end of life. This practice will allow you to plan promotions or markdowns to move these products before they spoil, reducing waste and protecting your bottom line.
    Consider assigning specific staff members to monitor expiration dates and ensure that soon-to-expire items are prioritized in sales and food preparation.

  3. Optimize Ordering and Replenishment Processes:
    Accurate demand forecasting is crucial for minimizing overstocking and reducing waste. Utilize sales data and forecasting tools to predict demand for perishable items, considering seasonal trends, upcoming promotions, and historical sales patterns.
    Fine-tuning your ordering and replenishment processes based on these insights helps ensure you have the right stock on hand without risking excessive spoilage.

  4. Invest in Proper Storage and Temperature Control:
    Maintaining optimal storage conditions is critical for extending the shelf life of perishable items and preserving their quality. Ensure your refrigeration units are properly calibrated and regularly serviced to maintain consistent temperatures.
    Train your staff on proper storage procedures, including the ideal temperature ranges for different types of products and the importance of regular temperature checks. Investing in the right storage infrastructure and practices can help you reduce spoilage.

  5. Implement Inventory Tracking and Management Software:
    Manual inventory management is no longer feasible in the modern age of retail, especially when dealing with perishable items. Investing in inventory management software with features designed explicitly for perishables can make a world of difference.
    These systems provide real-time visibility into stock levels, track expiration dates, and generate automatic reorder alerts, helping you minimize waste and ensure that your shelves are always stocked with the freshest products.

By implementing these expert tips, you'll be well on your way to optimizing your perishable inventory management and reducing waste in your store. Still, these tips are only the beginning. If you want to manage perishable inventory efficiently, you need the right tools. Let’s examine five tools you might consider implementing to improve your processes. 

See How Our Grocery POS Boosts Profitability

Top Tools for Managing Perishable Inventory

1. Katana 

Katana is a cloud-based inventory management solution designed for businesses needing real-time visibility and stock control. The tool is particularly well-suited for manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers who deal with perishable goods and require advanced tracking capabilities.

Standout features of Katana include:

  • Multilocation support: Easily monitor stock levels across all your warehouses and sales channels, view joint stock data, and execute transfers between locations. This functionality is particularly valuable for businesses with multiple stores or distribution centers, as it helps maintain accurate inventory levels and streamlines order fulfillment.
  • End-to-end traceability: Effortlessly track serial numbers, batches, and expiry dates, guaranteeing precise stock identification and recall readiness. 
  • Reorder points: Set up reorder points for products and materials, automatically alerting you when stock levels fall below a predetermined threshold. 
  • Product availability tracking: Track purchase and sales orders and committed and arriving products to ensure timely order fulfillment.

Pricing: Katana’s Standard package starts at $359 per month.

2. IT Retail 

IT Retail offers an all-in-one point of sale (POS) and inventory management solution designed specifically for grocery stores and markets. Our tool targets independent grocers who need a robust system to streamline their operations, manage their inventory effectively, and unlock profitability.

Related Read: What Are Grocery Store Profit Margins? (And How To Increase Yours)

Some of our standout features include:

  • Android Inventory App: Use our mobile application to manage your inventory on the go. The app enables users to quickly add or change products, generate purchase orders, receive items, and conduct inventory counts, all from their Android devices.
  • Shrinkage Tracking: Calculate shrinkage by analyzing items received, items sold, and past inventory counts.
  • Purchase Order Management: Create purchase orders that can be converted into multiple file types, including PDF, and sent directly to vendors. The system also allows grocers to receive items against these orders, ensuring you only pay for what you receive.
  • Flexible Receiving Options: Seamlessly receive items either through the mobile app or the back office. Grocers can receive against an order or without an order, providing flexibility to accommodate various receiving scenarios. Once receiving is complete, users can create an invoice and mark it as paid when the vendor has been compensated.
  • Low Stock Reports: The system generates low stock reports that help grocers stay ahead of their inventory needs. These reports evaluate year-to-date sales, last month's sales, and last week's sales, providing valuable insights for reordering decisions.

IT Retail is a top choice for managing perishable inventory because we offer a comprehensive set of tools specifically designed for the unique needs of grocery stores. Our grocery-specific features, mobile capabilities, and robust reporting make IT Retail an ideal solution for grocers looking to optimize perishable inventory management. 

Pricing: Get a custom quote online using our transparent build and price tool

3. NetSuite 

NetSuite is a comprehensive cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system designed for businesses in the food and beverage industry. The tool targets companies of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises, that need a robust solution for managing their inventory, orders, financials, and customer relationships.

Some key features include:

  • Optimized Supply Chain: Manage your supply chain with enhanced control, visibility, and planning capabilities. The system enables users to track products throughout the supply chain, ensuring full lot traceability and efficient recall management.
  • Streamlined Sales Cycles: NetSuite provides a 360-degree view of the buyer across all channels and touchpoints, allowing food and beverage businesses to deliver consistent interactions and exceptional customer service.
  • Product Data Management: Centralize all product data and recipes in one place, simplifying design and change control processes. This feature helps reduce the time-to-market for new and updated products.
  • Warehouse Management System (WMS): Use NetSuite’s integrated WMS to take control of your warehouse operations with detailed metrics, real-time transactions, optimization strategies, and handheld capabilities, resulting in increased efficiencies.

Pricing: Available only by custom quote.

4. Markt POS 

Markt POS is an all-in-one point of sale solution designed for local markets, such as ethnic grocery stores, bodegas, and specialty food shops. The tool targets independent retailers who need a comprehensive system to manage their inventory and streamline grocery store operations. 

Standout features of Markt POS include:

  • Flexible Inventory Options: Easily add unique items and barcodes to your inventory, enabling them to manage a diverse range of products. This feature is particularly valuable for local markets that often carry specialty or ethnic items not found in traditional inventory systems.
  • Low Stock Notifications: The system sends alerts when products run low, helping retailers keep their shelves stocked and avoid stockouts. 
  • Purchase Order Creation: Simplify your ordering process with a tool that allows users to create purchase orders directly within the system and send them to vendors. 
  • Accessible Cloud-Based Technology: Markt POS operates on reliable cloud-based servers, enabling users to access their store data anywhere and on any device. The system also has offline capabilities, ensuring local markets can continue operating even during internet outages.

Pricing: Get a custom quote online using their pricing tool

5. Zenventory 

Zenventory is a multi-channel inventory management software designed for businesses that sell products across various platforms, such as e-commerce websites, marketplaces, and brick-and-mortar stores. The tool targets retailers, wholesalers, and distributors needing a scalable and user-friendly inventory management solution.

Some of Zenventory’s key features are: 

  • Multi-Warehouse Management: Manage inventory across multiple warehouses with features like item allocation per warehouse, marketplace connection for order fulfillment, shipping strategy designation, and easy inventory transfer between locations. 
  • Kits and Bundles: Simplify your fulfillment process for products with bills of material (BOM) by automatically breaking down the components needed for built-to-order items. 
  • Assemblies: Create work orders, manage assembly tasks, track inventory of finished goods and materials, and ship out orders seamlessly. This feature is ideal for businesses that manufacture or assemble products in-house.
  • Low Stock Alerts: Receive customizable email and SMS notifications when stock levels reach minimum thresholds, expiration dates are approaching, or items are depleted. 

Pricing: Zenventory’s Standard package starts at $249 per month.

How To Manage Perishable Inventory and Run a Profitable Store 

Managing perishable goods is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face when running a grocery store, but with the right tools and processes, you can minimize your losses and boost your margins. 

The solutions we've covered in this post can go a long way in helping you get a handle on your perishable inventory. However, it's important to remember that inventory management is just one piece of the larger puzzle.

To truly run a profitable store, you need a comprehensive system that can tackle all aspects of your business, from reporting and e-commerce to transaction processing and employee management. That's where IT Retail comes in.

With IT Retail, you'll have a powerful, all-in-one platform that can streamline your operations, provide valuable insights, and help you deliver an exceptional customer experience. Plus, with features designed specifically for managing perishable inventory, you'll be able to take control of your store like never before.

Ready to see how IT Retail can help you crush your inventory management practices and run a more profitable store? Schedule a demo today and discover the difference IT Retail can make for your business.

See How Our Grocery POS Boosts Profitability