Shamus Hines, CEO and Robert Appell, Chief Product Officer
Caught between the short shelf life of fresh items, numerous regulations pertaining to nutrition, and stiff competition from giants like Amazon, Whole Foods and Walmart, fresh food retailers are in a fix today. Standing as their pillar of strength, Applied Data Corporation (ADC), has pioneered a solution to help stores maximize their sales and profit margins while minimizing their food waste. With a deep understanding of the nuances surrounding fresh food retail, the company has carved a niche for itself in supporting retailers’ production planning, inventory management, recipe management, and food safety compliance functions. In an interview with CIO Applications, ADC’s CEO, Shamus Hines and Robert Appell, its Chief Product Officer, take us through the company’s chronicle starting from its inception to the rapid strides the company has made on its path to success.
What spurred the idea of ADC?
Hines: ADC was founded as a consulting project for some of the country’s largest grocers. Back then, it was about device management as grocers had different types of weighing scales and the absence of an industry standard communication protocol, which introduced inconsistency in terms of sharing pricing information on items between the departments of a grocery store. We stepped in to address this challenge and came up with a software solution called InterStore that initially focused on device connectivity. Since then, it has evolved to include other areas around fresh food such as recipe management, production planning, inventory management, food safety, nutrition, and recipes based on demand. Today, we feel like a 30-year-old startup, still excited as ever about the industry, and as more technology gets incorporated into our process, we are consistently modernizing our platform to address the challenges faced by fresh food retailers today and in the future.
Please tell us about the InterStore Fresh Item Management suite.
Appell: InterStore is a cloud-based software suite built to solve pain points across the fresh department.
As fresh food retailers juggle between orders coming from several channels like made-to-order, online, pick up, and eCommerce, InterStore tracks them all with a state-of-the-art production manager called P-Cubed. P-Cubed ensures that the right products are produced at the appropriate time in necessary quantities, based on customer expectations, which are forecasted using big data and the latest technologies. Complementing P-Cubed is NutriGen—the suite’s core recipe management module that can define standardized recipes reassuring executives and associates that their recipes comply with nutritional regulations. Further, the associates preparing the dishes have a full view of the recipes they’ll be making scaled up or down to the necessary quantities for that specific store as forecasted by P-Cubed. Our third product, InterScale, is the device communication mechanism within InterStore that allows nutritional and pricing data to be communicated in real time on any barcode labeling device with printing capabilities in any store, on a label, menu or an eCommerce site. Finally, the M-squared Meat Manager solution standardizes templates for meat cutting and mincing, providing traceability and transparency into the origin of the meat and the quantity used for each lot.
Can you shed some light on the uniqueness of InterStore?
Hines: We are a completely integrated, end-to-end solution for Fresh Item Management. We’ve built InterStore by joining our fresh food expertise with the input of our 100+ clients representing over 10,000 retail stores across 11 countries. As a result, we have a deep understanding of how fresh operations work and a strong grasp on the complex issues involved. Users can find these insights in our tools and use them to solve the challenges they face when managing fresh food. For example, the ever-changing state of devices within grocery stores involving new types of scales, iPads, mobile devices, and Android devices coupled with the absence of an industry standard protocol, presents challenges in terms of communicating information across the fresh department. We help retailers remain device-agnostic by hosting pricing data for scales and allowing users to print labels off of most any device they have access to in their department. Our recipe management tool, NutriGen, provides clients with an intuitive workflow and capabilities for approving recipes and keeping recipe level records, key for compliance with FDA menu labeling regulations. Lastly, our production planning capabilities are not a one size fits all approach. We have focused functionality for each of the key departments in grocery including bakery, deli, meat, and seafood.
Please tell us about your client base and the benefits they have experienced from InterStore.
Appell: While ADC has numerous clients using its production planning solution for different departments within the grocery store, like bakeries, delis, meats and seafood, we also have fresh departments in convenience stores using our solution. Several clients have recorded double-digit percent declines in food waste and double-digit percent increases in sales for products managed under production planning. Additionally, InterStore has revealed instances of products being sold below cost without the retailer’s knowledge. After identifying these issues, we have helped the retailers address this problem resulting in significant margin improvements. Finally, InterStore is scalable, enabling it to support everyone from Tier-1 retailers with a vast network of stores to smaller cooperative businesses with only a few stores. For the cooperative businesses, which are typically centralized groups servicing multiple members with different recipe variations and food offerings, the suite establishes a master data repository for cooperative environments allowing owners to have one system for adding new members as opposed to installing new software for each member.
What is the roadmap envisioned by ADC for the future?
Hines: ADC intends to continue enhancing our forecasting capabilities by leveraging the latest technologies, which will improve our production management capabilities and ultimately allow us to better serve our clients. Additionally, we remain committed to utilizing the latest tech to deliver a world-class user experience with SaaS delivery, which provides the best reporting capabilities available and access to the latest and greatest products in the InterStore suite.