Posted26 April 2021

On 28th April we mark International Stop Food Waste Day, an initiative launched by Compass Group Plc in 2017 in the US, before going global in 2018. Food waste has become a severe epidemic across the world due to a lack of understanding of how to effectively use food and conserve it. Food waste, however, can be stopped. International Stop Food Waste Day hopes to help those in need get the food they require and stop landfills growing. It also aims to educate people about their food waste and create impactful solutions for how people farm, produce, purchase, and use food.

In the words of Dominic Blakemore, CEO, Compass Group PLC, “Food waste is a major issue facing us all. As a global leader in food service operating in 40+ countries, we are uniquely positioned to raise awareness and make a positive impact to reduce food waste.”

The importance of drawing attention to the problem cannot be underestimated:

  • 33% of all food produced globally is lost or wasted every year. This equates to 1.3 billion tonnes of perfectly good food going to waste
  • 45% of root crops, fruit and vegetables produced globally are lost or wasted per year
  • The annual cost of food wasted by the average American family is $1,866
  • 25% of the food wasted globally could feed all 795 million undernourished people in the world
  • 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions each year are due to food loss and waste

Challenges and Solutions for Grocery Retailers

Grocery retailers face a difficult situation, on the one hand the pressure to reduce waste and on the other the need to offer choice in a highly competitive environment. Whilst this poses something of a dilemma, there are solutions that have been proposed and/or implemented to address the concerns of the public over the climate crisis, sustainability, and their links to food wastage:

  • Improved tracking of expiry dates and better processes and training to ensure a greater percentage of food is sold prior to expiration date or distributed whilst edible
  • Imperfect produce or “unattractive” and “misshapen” food is a major reason for food waste but there is a market for such produce. Companies now specialize in selling imperfect produce and some of the major supermarkets have launched campaigns to increase sales in this area
  • Developing Supply Chain flexibility and capability offers a commercial win for Grocers and will help address the food wastage issue by allowing for quick redistribution of product between stores and last-minute changes to orders, but it does require investment and a joined-up approach from farm to consumer
  • Redistribution of unsold produce to food banks and other charities seems like such an obvious solution, particularly given the hardship faced by many in recent months

So there are clear opportunities to change the norm around food waste, and it would seem the desire of consumers for sustainability and environmentally friendly policies to be at the heart of the strategy of Grocery retailers amongst others, the pressure to improve the current food wastage situation is only going in one direction.