Colruyt Group goes the extra mile in food quality control thanks to innovative Xpectrum technology
Possible food fraud can be detected much faster and easier
Colruyt Group tested, approved and adopted the Belgian Xpectrum technology, taking it a step further in terms of innovative quality control of food in its own production environments and in the distribution centers. Xpectrum works on the basis of NIR (Near Infrared) Spectroscopy: with the aid of light and its reflection, the composition and texture of a food product can be measured and, for example, it can be determined whether water has been added to a food product such as chicken. With this system, Colruyt Group was able to measure 100 times more samples during the test period and save considerable costs. Via "machine learning" and "Artificial Intelligence" technology, the retailer immediately got to see whether or not there was something wrong with the food product when it was scanned with the "Spectrometer".
Assurance of quality and authenticity of food products
In the food chain, the quality and authenticity of products must be assured. However, there is always a small chance that food of a (unintentionally) low quality will come from the supplier, or that in certain cases there is deliberate fraudulent use of food. Today there are very extensive quality management systems that take different aspects into account. However, there is often a reliance on certificates and agreed specifications, and / or few (specific) tests are carried out on, for example, fraud with herbs, olive oil, meat and fish.
Stefan Goethaert, responsible for the Quality Service at Colruyt Group:
“Food safety and quality is and will remain our greatest asset. We already do a lot of checks within our own quality department, but have also been looking for a way to efficiently increase the number of quality checks in our production environments themselves, and on products that arrive as food products in our distribution centers. We have successfully tested this solution with Xpectrum; a solution that fits in our constant pursuit of innovation in our processes ”.
How It Works: Near Infrared Spectroscopy
Xpectrum is an innovative tool, developed by the Belgian start-up of the same name, that uses an easy-to-use, fast and reliable spectroscopy technology to improve safety, quality and authenticity in the field of food controls. It wants to further unburden retailers in that area. Xpectrum works on the basis of NIR (Near Infrared) Spectroscopy: with the help of light and its reflection, the composition and texture of a food product can be measured and, for example, it can be determined whether water has been added to a food product such as chicken, over which kind of it is, but also whether a product has the predetermined quality characteristics.
Thanks to this technology, an employee can very easily perform the measurement himself on receipt of products or raw materials with a hand scanner (“Spectrometer”) that emits the NIR light, and he / she can see within a few seconds whether the product is satisfactory not. By integrating this into daily activities, much larger quantities can be efficiently controlled than in a lab environment.
Simon Steverlinck, International Business Development at Xpectrum: “Using machine learning and Artificial Intelligence technology, you immediately see if there is something wrong with your food product when you scan it. A sample that has been measured can again be included in the flow of the other products - for example in production, or when the product still has to be packaged - there is no food waste. Moreover, the whole is very scalable: it gives retailers the opportunity to perform as many measurements as necessary, without additional costs. The more you scan, the more you know, at the same cost ”. In addition, companies themselves can get started with the tool to create specific models for their products.
Early warning system: accurate and, above all, much faster quality check
A 12-month test at Colruyt Group showed the competitive advantage of NIR spectroscopy. Stefan Goethaert: “During the test, we now tested 100 times more samples than we can normally check in twelve months and this was effectively confirmed by the lab in 70% of the samples where deviations were detected by the new technology”. With this system, Colruyt Group was able to make its monitoring system even more efficient. Instead of randomly selecting samples for further analysis by the external lab, the system told which samples needed further investigation. Goethaert: “The difference in cost is estimated at € 30,000 per product. More efficient controls like this one also help us get the Colruyt brand promise to continue to deliver on the lowest price (lowest price = lowest cost)”.
The solution that Xpectrum offers is a lot cheaper than having to send the samples to a lab and an immediate result is also guaranteed. Stefan Goethaert: “This mainly concerns an“ Early warning system ”: we will never be able to replace the lab 100%, but we will certainly be sending more targeted samples to the lab. We always have to take into account a margin of error - with this technology, but also in the lab. The future looks very promising. ”