The food and beverage industry, from the largest companies to the smallest, is responding to address the issue of food waste. Efforts are reaching throughout the supply chain and prompting executives and entrepreneurs to pursue opportunities the reduction of food waste may present.
Diminishing food waste long has been considered a cornerstone of aspirations to eliminate world hunger and also is believed critical to the achievement of sustainability goals adopted by many companies. The stakes are staggering. One-third of the food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted and amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Measured in dollars, food waste results in approximately $940 billion in economic losses globally.
Actions taken to address the issue range from common sense to entrepreneurial. One common sense approach has been spearheaded by the Consumer Goods Forum, an international consortium of some of the largest consumer packaged goods companies and retailers in the world. The group is calling for a change in the “use by” labels on food and beverage packaging. The plan calls for the use of two labels. Perishable products will feature a “use by” date, and non-perishable products will feature a “best if used by” label.
“Now more than ever is the time for business to play a leading role in tackling food waste,” said Peter Freedman, managing director of the Consumer Goods Forum. “This is an issue that can only truly be tackled by collaboration across the value chain. Through our global membership, the C.G.F. is committed to playing a leadership role. We believe simplified and consistent date labelling will help us get one step closer to meeting our resolution to halve food waste by 2025 while also helping reduce confusion for consumers.”
Separately, many food and beverage companies have launched common sense internal initiatives to mitigate food waste. Efforts range from working collaboratively with growers at harvest to reduce loss at the farm level. At the production level, edible food, particularly produce, that may not meet a company’s visual specifications is being redirected and donated to people in need. Other products that may not be fit for human consumption are being diverted for use as animal feed.
Entrepreneurial food and beverage companies are building business models around reducing food waste. For example, Wasteless is a Tel Aviv, Israel, start-up venture that uses dynamic pricing to move fresh products at retail that are getting close to their expiration date.
At the Expo East tradeshow, recently held in Baltimore, several companies exhibited brands that feature ingredients sourced from food waste. One Potato Snacks, for example, introduced Uglies Kettle Chips that are made from potatoes with minor imperfections. The Misfit Juicery sells cold-pressed juices that contain at least 70% fruits from farmers and vegetables farmers can’t sell or scraps from the manufacturers of such products as carrot sticks or watermelon cubes.
In September 2015, the United Nations set a goal of halving global food waste by the year 2030. While the goal remains daunting, it is heartening to see the momentum that has become apparent over the past years.