BELOIT, WIS.  — Consumer interest in reducing food waste and prioritizing overall planetary health continue to rise. A study by Kerry found that one-third of all food produced globally goes to waste, and 98% of consumers say they are trying to reduce their food waste. Factors driving consumers to reduce food waste include: 70% want to waste less money, 59% cite concerns for the environment, 52% cite guilt for world hunger, and 46% say how they were raised and current lifestyles attributed to reducing the amount of food wasted.

Data from ReFED, a New York-based nonprofit focused on food waste, said more than a third of the 229 million tons of available food went unsold or uneaten in the United States in 2019. Shoppers are tossing out an additional 30 million tons of food each year, the ReFED study said. Food waste also may be the No. 1 contributor to climate change even over cars and cows, said Christine Moseley, founder and chief executive officer of Full Harvest, on a panel of food waste and upcycling experts at IFT FIRST 2023.

In a 2022 Innova Lifestyle and Attitude Survey by Innova Market Insights, reducing food waste was ranked among the top consumer actions to be environmentally responsible. Nearly half of consumers surveyed by Innova were throwing away less food, and 63% said they would like to eat at a restaurant that actively prevents or reduces food waste. Around a quarter have adjusted their product choices for environmental reasons such as choosing foods with environmentally friendly packaging and choosing sustainably grown products. Sixty-nine percent of consumers were interested in purchasing products formulated to reduce food waste, Kerry’s report found.

To combat food waste, food manufacturers and food companies may need to offer longer product shelf life. Seventy-two percent of consumers agreed extending shelf life of products would enable them to reduce food waste, the study found. In addition, 74% of consumers may consider preservatives an important aspect when making food purchases to reduce food waste. Eighty-two percent said they prefer natural preservatives while 50% said artificial preservatives were not an issue when purchasing products. One-third of consumers are willing to switch brands or products that offer better shelf life to reduce food waste.

How consumers shop may also aid in reducing food waste. Ninety-one percent of consumers are adopting new purchasing patterns like purchasing smaller quantities and reading expiration dates before making a purchase. Food waste may hurt business for some brands, the study found. It may lower brand and product attitudes and may impact repurchases from consumers. Consumers also may look elsewhere for an alternative product that produces less waste.