Cancel OK

NY produce wholesaler offers AI case study

Choco AI

A New York produce company’s use of AI in ordering has saved it thousands of dollars in efficiency and food waste.

Krystal Fruits & Vegetables, Inc. BB #:162510 Syosset, NY, had struggled with labor shortages and slow manual ordering processes, said owner Michael Longo, so it turned to Choco AI to streamline the process.

Choco is a technology company founded in 2018 that offers Choco AI, a software platform that enables restaurants and suppliers to mutually streamline their order processes, saving them time, money, and food.

“Taking orders from our restaurant partners has always been one of the most tedious parts of our business,” said Longo. “Orders often come in late at night, and reviewing and logging them is boring, low-skill work that no one really wants to do. Hiring is already an issue in our industry, so it’s been especially difficult to find anyone who wants this particular job. We had already been working with Choco and using their technology to digitize our product catalog and it’s been a great partnership so far. So when they introduced Choco AI in mid-2023 and asked us if we wanted to be one of their pilot customers, it was an easy decision to say yes.”

He said Choco AI implementation took only a few weeks, and it mirrored the existing ERP interface. Choco was hands-on at first, but after a while, the AI learned from order changes and adjusted.

Mike Longo (center right) with his staff at Krystal Produce.

“Choco AI has essentially put our order processing on autopilot, with very little human intervention required,” Longo said.

“When a customer calls or emails in with their order, the technology automatically captures it, inputs into our back-end inventory system, and creates an order. Our previous system of logging all orders manually led to errors on a regular basis, which often cost Krystal money in order to make things right with customers. 

“With Choco, our errors have gone down significantly at the same time that the number of orders we’re able to log has gone way up. Right now, we’re averaging about 13 seconds per order. This means that one member of our team can handle an order volume that previously took five people.

“My staff is then freed up to do more exciting work that helps grow the business – basically serving as an inside sales team that can follow up with new and existing customers – rather than transcribing voicemail orders for hours on end.”

When Longo describes the return on investment in Choco AI, he said working with one of Krystal’s biggest customers saw savings of 15 hours per week, which comes out to $23,000 in annual savings for this customer alone.

Georgie Thomas, managing director and head of the U.S. division for Choco, said the company works with more than 10,000 suppliers in the U.S. and Europe, which includes hundreds of produce suppliers, such as Krystal Produce.

He said it’s not difficult for a produce company to adopt Choco AI technology.

“Our streamlined setup process, powered by our extensive industry data and expertise, ensures that getting started is seamless and efficient,” Thomas said.

“Orders are captured automatically, 24/7 and fed into a supplier’s ERP. Our early customers report being able to process up to 100 times more orders than they could previously, which is essentially the definition of scalable. From there, we provide continuous support and customization options to meet customers’ evolving needs.”

Thomas said looking more broadly at how AI could improve operations in the fresh produce business, he thinks it could have a role in marketing.

“For example, within Choco, suppliers will eventually be able to use generative AI to craft marketing and promotional messages that can help them drive sales,” he said.

“Another area is CRM, where predictive analytics can identify when a customer should be ordering and if they’re not, prompt suppliers to engage to ensure they’re not at risk of churning. Lastly, AI can be leveraged for demand forecasting. By looking at aggregated market-level data, suppliers can understand trends on a per-product basis especially as it relates to assortment, seasonality, or cuisine type.”

Longo said he’s proud to be one of the first produce companies to leverage AI to improve operations.

“I’m also a big believer in the power of technology to grow our business, and leading with innovation is one of our core values,” Longo said. “There is a lot of hype out there as it relates to AI, but this felt like a very practical application to a very real problem our business was facing.”

According to Choco’s website, the company has raised $328 million to date from investors including Left Lane Capital, Insight Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Coatue Management.


Greg Johnson is Vice President of Media for Blue Book Services