Staying Fresh: The Role of Automation in Optimizing Inventory for Food & Beverage Brands

Allison Champion
3 min read
March 5, 2024
Modified: March 6, 2024



Picture this unsettling scene in a warehouse: pallets of products stacked high, each with its own ticking clock counting down to the dreaded expiration date. You’re racing against time to get your products to customers before they expire – and ensure you’re not stuck with inventory you can no longer sell.

Sound familiar?

Now think about it from your customer’s perspective. Imagine they’re excited to open a shipment of, for example, their favorite protein drinks, only to discover they are past their expiration date. Not exactly the boost they were expecting.

A situation like this is more than just a minor inconvenience; it could lead to customers making a beeline for your competitors, and for the reviews sites to share their experience with the web at large. Sometimes a lack of protein provokes rash decisions.

Avoiding this sour scenario is where effective inventory and order fulfillment logic comes into play.

What is fulfillment logic?

In simple terms, fulfillment logic is a set of strategies used in supply chain management, principally involving lot tracking and pick logic. These methods not only prevent the unpleasant scenario of dispatching expired products, but also enable brands to optimize their soon-to-expire inventory for cost efficiency.

Lot tracking is particularly critical for perishable items, or those with expiration dates. Such processes make it possible for brands (and their fulfillment partners) to prioritize shipping specific product batches – which proves beneficial for managing both expiring products as well as executing product recalls and quarantines. 

When it comes to picking strategy, two fulfillment methods are ideal for food and beverage brands:

First Expired, First Out (FEFO)

The FEFO strategy fulfills goods closest to their expiration date first, thereby maximizing the shelf life of products throughout the supply chain. It’s like eating the ripest apple from the basket first, ensuring none goes to waste.

First In, First Out (FIFO)

With this strategy, older products are pushed to the front of the shelf, ensuring that the inventory purchased earliest is also the first fulfilled. Think of it as keeping the flow of goods in your pantry in check.

A third fulfillment method, Last In, First Out (LIFO) moves products brought in last to ship out first to customers. This strategy isn’t the best fit for food and beverage brands, as it can lead to products exceeding their expiration date. It’s like always eating the freshest apple, leaving the older ones to rot — not ideal, as you’ll be left with unsellable inventory on the balance sheet.

Shelf Life Expiry Date (SLED) Tracking

Shelf Life Expiration Date (SLED) is an additional tracking feature that is a game-changer in the world of inventory efficiency. It’s like a safeguard against product waste, maintaining visibility and sending alerts about upcoming product expiry to ensure inventory is always moving.

Automating inventory and order fulfillment logic with Flowspace

Flowspace software takes the guesswork out of inventory management. The platform offers customizable picking logic, as well as SLED tracking, automating the process to ensure that every order is delivered to your customers before the products expire, and you’re left holding the bag. 

We’re proud of our award-winning solution, recognized with Food Logistics’ Top Software & Technology Award 2023. We were also named an Inc. Magazine Fulfillment Power Partner, honored for our ability to help customers achieve accelerated growth and success.

But it’s not the accolades that drive us; it’s the satisfaction of our clients and their customers.

If you’re tired of playing catch-up with expiration dates, it’s time to switch gears. And with automated fulfillment logic from Flowspace, you’re always a step ahead. Get in touch with a fulfillment consultant to get started.

Written By:

flowspace author Allison Champion

Allison Champion

Allison Champion leads marketing communication at Flowspace, where she works to develop content that addresses the unique challenges facing modern brands in omnichannel eCommerce. She has more than a decade of experience in content development and marketing.

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