Industry calls for meaningful change in fighting food waste
26 Apr 2023 --- Keeping consumers educated about the monetary and social impact of reducing food waste is crucial to raising awareness about one of the key challenges facing F&B supply chains. Manufacturers are rescuing ingredients and raw materials as upcycling gathers pace, while food innovators, in general, are trying to find novel ways to bring value to operations as they ramp up efforts to reduce food loss.
Today marks Stop Food Waste Day, a global initiative to ignite real change in combating one of the biggest challenges facing F&B supply chains. FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with key players who are raising awareness at a time when cost, quality and diminishing resources are having an impact on how consumers make purchases.
According to a PepsiCo spokesperson, population growth, urbanization and other factors are currently driving unprecedented volumes of waste, overwhelming society’s waste management infrastructure and causing environmental degradation.
“Now is the time to act for the industry,” shares the spokesperson.
Established in 2017 by Compass Group USA, Stop Food Waste Day is now recognized worldwide as it aims to educate consumers and businesses.
According to the World Food Programme, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. Food waste is central to some of the key challenges facing the world today, including hunger and poverty, climate change, health and well-being and the sustainability of agriculture and oceans.
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that less than a quarter of food wasted in the US and Europe could feed all starving people across the globe. Alongside this, food waste is ranked as the world’s third largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter, right after China and the US. The damage to the global economy is close to US$940 billion each year.
Rising to the occasion
Emma Cahill, global director for food protection and preservation at Kerry, says that when the industry comes together on a coordinated day, it’s an opportunity to educate and influence consumers and for the industry to create “meaningful change in food waste behaviors and percentage losses.”
Kerry has set a target to reduce its food waste by 50% by 2030. “To date, we have reduced our food waste globally within our own operations by 41%. We’re doing this in several different ways,” outlines Cahill.
“We are reducing our food waste by optimizing our batches to ensure we are not wasting raw materials; we are optimizing our yield also to ensure we are making the right amount of stock to meet our customers’ orders, for example. We are also monitoring food waste for each of our manufacturing sites monthly, creating a focus and culture change around food waste.”
The company is also considering several projects to reuse food waste across its operations.
Meanwhile, Brian Nash, vice president of Corporate Sustainability at Ingredion, frequently sees customers and food companies committing to eliminating food waste.
“As more companies and investors focus on minimizing their environmental footprint, reducing food waste seems like a great place to start,” he states.
Nash expresses that highlighting Stop Food Waste Day helps bring awareness to the problem.
“In the US, up to 40% of all food ends up in landfills. That means that a vast portion of the resources we put into agriculture is wasted, increasing our carbon footprint on Earth.”
“Consumers can start to tackle the food waste issue by simply looking in their trash to see what’s being thrown away. Then ask themselves how to prevent it from ending up being wasted. Alternatives like composting can help put nutrients back in the growing cycle,” he explains.
What has been achieved so far?
Ingredion has customers that have committed to the Champions 12.3 effort to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. “We have signed up as a Friend of Champions 12.3, working to help our customers and our operations drive to that aspiration,” Nash says.
“I expect an increased business focus on circularity and finding ways to upcycle previously wasted materials. One example is our Fibertex line of citrus fibers, which are manufactured from the citrus peel by-products from pectin manufacturing.”
“Globally, approximately one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted each year and that waste is a significant contributor to GHG emissions,”a spokesperson tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
PepsiCo is working to minimize the waste it sends to landfills. “We’ve been on this journey for many years and we’re approaching virtually zero waste to landfill,” the spokesperson comments.
Upcycling; a valuable process
Using upcycling as a valid processing method, Upcycled Foods, Inc. (UP, Inc) has launched its first upcycled bread items co-developed with Kroger. The bread line includes two SKUs that tap into consumers’ demand for nutritious and sustainable food options.
Upcycled Certified breads contain 10% of ReGrained SuperGrain+, UP, Inc.’s flagship ingredient, which contributes unique flavor depth, naturally fortified nutritional attributes and an authentic sustainability story, according to the company.
UP, Inc hails its upcycled bread line as a solution to building a zero-food waste economy.
Upcycling is highlighted by Innova Market Insights in its top food trends for 2023 within “Redefining Value.”
Cost and value for money have become more important to consumers worldwide. Today’s shoppers increasingly explore money-saving strategies, such as choosing lower-cost items and cooking from scratch. Earlier this week, we highlighted how the cost of living crisis is prompting a shift toward the freezer category.
Consumers tell Innova they have reduced food waste and upcycled or recycled more as part of their belt-tightening. As the cost-of-living crisis continues, brands can succeed through actions combining economic benefits with clear health and sustainability goals.
Leveraging discarded fruit for flavor
Cahill cites a case study where Kerry takes raspberry seeds, a by-product from a site that makes fruit puree and uses them to create flavors for the beverage industry. “Before this, these seeds were just sent for composting,” she says.
The company also used upcycled cheese to create cheese powders that bring that authentic cheese taste consumers expect in snack and dairy categories. Purchasing ten metric tons of cheese powder from Kerry avoids 11,856 kg of food waste, equivalent to 55,586 kilograms of CO2.
Cahill explains that Kerry has numerous customer projects worldwide helping to reduce downstream food waste through shelf life extension of their products through conventional ingredients or natural alternatives and process replacement to offer secondary (or open) shelf life.
Tech that provides freshness
Fresh Inset’s contribution to combating food waste is their Vidre+ stickers, predicted to save over nine million metric tons of fresh produce annually. Global giants such as Janssen PMP have already been testing the solution.
“All you need is a simple sticker placed on the packaging or the product itself,” says Andrzej Wolan, co-founder and CEO of Fresh Inset.
The technology can be easily applied on-site directly after harvest. “Growers and packers can turn ordinary packaging that they use anyway into a smart tool that prevents loss of weight, quality, or nutritional value of the product. This gives the food business an incredible competitive advantage. It works with pears, apples, avocados, blueberries, mushrooms, tomatoes, and many more crops.”
Manufacturers & consumers
According to the PepsiCo spokesperson, turning waste into renewable energy is a key way to tackle the global food waste crisis while investing in greener, sustainable energy.
“Imperative to this is collaborating across the supply chain,” they note. “We hope that through initiatives and industry collaboration, we can tackle the crisis head-on and start to see a positive change when it comes to food waste. In the coming years, we remain committed to achieving virtually zero waste to landfill across Europe, where we are building recycling infrastructure in our operations and building a culture of recycling.”
Meanwhile, Cahill believes the direct cost of the wasted resources and waste measurement at disposal are “intrinsically motivating.”
“Manufacturers can play a greater role in reducing food waste globally by looking upstream and downstream at the indirect value they can bring to their operations by making efforts to reduce food waste,” she details.
Food waste prevention through vertically integrated demand planning, protection and shelf life extension should be the first port of call for industry, states Cahill. “Where a waste stream cannot or has not been prevented, capturing that value through upcycling is a great way to reduce food waste while improving profitability and sustainability.”
Consumer roles in food waste reduction are often linked to planning and education.
If a consumer is looking at expired food, it is too late, Cahill comments. “Education about the monetary, environmental and social impact of reducing food waste can aid motivation as well as linking it to a greater value for those who aren’t clear that their individual efforts ‘matter.’”
Thousands of consumers surveyed, as well as feedback from users of the Kerry Food Waste Estimator, confirm their surprise at the more significant impact of making minor changes to their food waste as well as confirming confusion around what ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates (and their regional equivalents) really mean.
By Elizabeth Green
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