According to FMCG Gurus' research, the number one change consumers made in the past year to their diets to lead a more sustainable lifestyle was "Made greater attempts to reduce food waste" at 73%. That result was higher than “local food” and “plant-based,” yet it hasn't gotten as much airtime. Perhaps food waste isn't as sexy or doesn't have as good a marketing agency?
But change is on the horizon.
A new certification launches worldwide in August 2021 for upcycled foods to ensure "we're building a food system in which all food reaches its highest and best use." The label is for products that are certifiably manufactured with food that otherwise wouldn't have been used for human consumption.
A great example of a company dedicated to upcycling is Spent Goods, a manufacturer of delicious baked goods from Henderson Brewery Co.'s spent barley, transforming waste into revenue. (I can attest in a yummy fashion.)
While most food waste happens before it ever gets to the consumer (see Len Kahn’s companion article on farmgate waste strategies for more on this), the issue has become top of mind, as consumers prepared more meals at home over the past year. Foodservice is better at utilizing food (waste equals lost profit) than consumers. And with fewer and bigger shopping “trips” (whether in person or online”), consumers are stocking up more and trying to use everything they can.
An August 2020 study suggested Canadians may be wasting 13.5% more food at home since the start of the pandemic, at 2.30 kg of organic food waste versus 2.03 kg pre-pandemic. Whether this increase is in line with the increased number of meals prepared and eaten in the home or not, food waste or loss has become a more significant issue with consumers.
Businesses Are Turning Trash Into Treasure
Related to the upcycling trend is the priority for zero waste and reducing food waste. And some companies and chefs are answering.
IKEA launched a free downloadable "ScrapsBook" created in collaboration with chefs from across North America. IKEA dedicates this cookbook "to cooking with the little things we usually throw away. Or, as we like to call it, 'scrapcooking.'"
The Zero Waste Chef has a new cookbook out and an Instagram account with 180k followers and another 42k on Facebook. It’s basically cooking like your grandmother did before it was trendy.
Sustainability leader Unilever's Hellman’s brand launched a "Use-Up Day" to cut food waste. Through one of the longest and largest behavioural studies into household food waste, Hellmann's Canada discovered that adopting just one Use-Up Day per week – making a meal using ingredients already in the fridge and kitchen – can reduce the amount of food thrown away by a third. More education around "best before" not meaning "bad after" also helps.
Retailers Helping Consumers Helping Retailers
Speaking of “best before” dates, will dynamic pricing seem as obvious in the future for produce and other perishable grocery items as it does now for airplane seats? Third-party platforms like FlashFood and AI-driven Wasteless reduce the price as it nears its expiry date, making this model easier for retailers. It’s a win-win proposition — consumers save money, and retailers move products to grocery carts instead of the waste stream.
There is a further opportunity for omnichannel solutions that link food purchases with food preparation and recipes to help consumers repurpose leftovers and stragglers in the fridge from last week's shop.
There's been a lot of investment in this space recently, but the biggest game-changer could be Walmart. Its Walmart+ platform offers free delivery in the US, and they’ve teamed up with Sidechef.com for "shoppable recipes." You can meal-plan based on diet or lifestyle (keto, etc.), daypart, cuisine, number of ingredients, budget, and time to prepare, plus buy all the ingredients with one click for Walmart curbside pickup or home delivery.
We all have a role to play in the war on food waste, no matter where we are on the food continuum. But, consumers are looking to industry to lead the way and provide easy solutions.
How will you be seen to be doing your part?