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Practical uses of AI in fresh produce

retail conf 2024 AI
Robert Veilleux (left), director of produce at Gelson’s Markets, explains how the retailer uses AI.

PHOENIX – Produce industry leaders gave examples of how they’re using artificial intelligence in their businesses and agreed we’re still in the learning phase of incorporating the new technology.

The International Fresh Produce Association BB #:378962 had AI sessions at both the Consumer Connection Conference and Retail Conference in Phoenix, April 29 to May 2.

At Consumer Connection, Brianna Shales, marketing director for Stemilt Growers BB #:113654, said she has used AI at the start of creative sessions, which gives everyone a head start at brainstorming.

For example, she said AI created some visual and graphic ideas on packaging, and then the marketers took it from there.

Stemilt has also used AI to do things that are time consuming or tedious, such as video editing, she said.

Maria Stanzaile, social media manager for IFPA, said she has been using AI to automate social media posts.

Mary Heslep, senior vice president at Ten Acre Marketing, said she thinks of AI as an intern.

“Give it tasks, correct it, refine it, and it learns from that,” she said.

At the Retail Conference, Robert Veilleux, director of produce at Gelson’s Markets BB #:113119, said the retailer uses AI in two key areas.

First, it uses AI to analyze customers who use their loyalty cards, and those customers who shop at competitors using their loyalty cards.

“We know when customers shop elsewhere, what they buy and why,” he said.

But Veilleux said it’s still up to the retailer to act on it.

“Information is great but it means nothing if you don’t respond to it,” he said.

Veilleux said Gelson’s also uses AI in its distribution centers, such as autonomous drones that fly around and capture inventory data in real time.

“It becomes a living document and helps our ordering and helps us in go-to-market,” he said.

Veilleux said AI has been a great tool in both areas, but people with store experiences still need to make decisions and plan strategy.


Greg Johnson is Vice President of Media for Blue Book Services