7 ways to manage seasonal food & drink inventories

30 Aug 2022

Seasonal inventory that doesn’t sell year-round can present a challenge for some SMBs. Seasonal inventories are especially common in food and drink businesses. Seasonal changes to ingredients can cause havoc for your order management. To cope food and drink SMBs either need to commit to larger warehouses or get creative.

So let’s look at some of the ways businesses can cope with a seasonal inventory.

7 ways for food and drink companies to manage seasonal inventory

Batch and expiration tracking

Batch tracking is a system that monitors stock items that share similar properties, like an expiration date. It’s one of, if not the most important inventory management technique for food and drink companies.

Many seasonal items like fresh produce more likely to go bad, especially if stored improperly. Products that spoil before your customers can purchase them are a sunk cost, especially if improper storage leads to those products contaminating other items. 

By using batch tracking to monitor inventory with short lifespans, you can reduce the risk of wasted stock and ensure the older stock sells first.

Just in Time inventory management

Just in Time (JIT) inventory management is the practice of ordering replenishment stock right at the moment you need it. This helps reduce the amount of stock you have just sitting gathering dust in the warehouse and is an excellent option for seasonal products. 

JIT is commonly used in the food and drink industry because these products tend to have a shorter shelf life. Rather than keeping a large backstock just in case they need it, businesses using just in time inventory management purchase what they need when they need it. This allows retailers to accurately respond to customer demand without risking an overstock. 

To learn more about the pros and cons of Just in Time inventory management, see our previous blog post.


Forecasting is a crucial practice for any business, but for those retailers dealing with seasonal products, it’s a lifeline. 

No matter what you sell, your seasonal products will roll right back around in a year’s time. Each year, your POS system collects data on various business metrics giving you plenty of historical data to look over and draw insights from. You can see sales levels and trends from previous years and use those insights to plan this year’s strategy. 

Forecasting also helps you understand how long a particular season will be, when the season will peak, and when it’s time to start ramping down. This information will help you choose between buying seasonal products in bulk or going with a JIT system.

First In, First Out 

The First In, First Out (FIFO) method works with the assumption that goods are sold in the same order they’re received. The intention is that you use older stock for order fulfilment before newer stock. Most supermarkets use a form of this inventory management practice, commonly referred to as “rotation”, where products with a longer shelf life are put on the shop floor behind products due to expire sooner.

This method is useful for those selling seasonal, short-life goods because it ensures seasonal food and drink products are pushed to the consumer before they expire. 

Economic Order Quantity 

The Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) method determines ideal inventory levels using three metrics: customer demand, acquisition cost, and holding cost. 

The EOQ method can help you cut down on inventory carry costs by uncovering more accurate information on customer habits. And since you know how much to order,  it also reduces the risk of seasonal products being wasted. 

That said, EOQ is a slightly more technical and complicated process. You need advanced demand forecasting models supported by a lengthy sales history to be truly effective.

ABC analysis

ABC inventory analysis assumes that some products will be more popular than others, and as such, more attention should be paid to those items. This management technique tasks us with putting products into categories in order of importance, with A being the most valuable products and C being the least valuable. 

There are no hard-and-fast rules for dividing products, so this method can look different depending on who is performing the analysis. However, the categories typically look something like this:

  • A items – 20% of products, which account for 70% to 80% of consumption value
  • B items – 30% of products, which account for 10% to 20% of consumption value
  • C items – 50% of products, which account for up to 10% of consumption value

ABC analysis helps businesses optimise their stock ordering process while allocating resources to the most “high value” products. This is especially important for food and beverage companies dealing with seasonal produce because it helps give customers what they want, when they want it, without the risk of overstocks and waste.

Build in scope for uncertainty

Even the most accurate forecasting can be proven wrong. The world is in flux thanks to supply chain issues, gas prices, climate change, and other issues that can interrupt the food and beverage industry. This has made it incredibly difficult for businesses to cope, especially when it comes to seasonal products.

It’s like the old adage goes: the only constant in life is change.

It’s uncertainty that separates great businesses from underperforming businesses. Having popular products in stock is the best way to avoid being buried by the competition. At the same time, you shouldn’t be overly cautious — you might get left in the lurch. 

Understanding and planning for uncertain times can help you cope with almost anything, from supply chain issues to seasonal inventory management. 

Manage your seasonal stock better with Workhorse

A lot of work goes into managing seasonal stock. While it might seem like more hassle than it’s worth, seasonal items are big sales drivers. 

To make life easier, invest in technology that helps you manage your inventory without the stress. That’s exactly what Workhorse does. 

Try Workhorse out today to learn how we can help your business!


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