According to data from the Food Waste Alliance, around 30% of all food produced worldwide gets lost or wasted.
Combating this problem requires collective efforts, particularly in the uncertain COVID-19 era when wasteful stockpiling is becoming more common than ever. At the food production level, 3.6 million tonnes of food surplus and waste is generated on UK farms every year – a number which accounts for 7.2% of the total produce.
In the UK, food production is primarily committed to meeting the quality standards of grocery retailers, export markets and the businesses in the foodservice sector. Sometimes, these quality standards can lead to edible food not entering the human food supply chain.
This reduces the amount of food available for human consumption and increases unnecessary waste! Food producers have a significant role to play in ensuring the food produced is optimally used. In this article, we discuss six strategies around food waste management for food producers:
1. Forecast demand more accurately
Quite often, food gets wasted because food producers order more raw materials than they end up using. Having accurate forecasting models in place will help to combat this. Software can be used to crunch historical data and make predictions about what demand will be like over the next week, month or quarter. Accordingly, food producers can plan to make only as much as will be consumed.
2. Have an ERP system in place
An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a one-stop solution for food producers looking to manage their inventories better and save on costs. It can help to track orders, design more accurate inventory orders, analyse the shelf life of each product, avoid cross-contamination, prevent overstocking and much more. Implementing a system like this can help them save thousands of pounds’ worth of food.
3. Improve food packaging
Not all packaging is bad, frequently the containers that foodstuffs come in are designed to preserve them for longer. Hence, merely cutting down on food packaging in an attempt to reduce waste is not sustainable, as that could increase the likelihood of food being spoiled.
Instead, food producers could adopt practices like using recycled materials in the packaging, labelling expiration dates clearly, providing explicit freezing/thawing/cooking instructions and designing the containers to help consumers take out the quantities they need without compromising the food that remains in the packet.
4. Control portion sizes
One of the most prevalent reasons for food waste is excessively large portion size. Individual consumers, couples and even families often simply cannot finish the amount of food that they buy. Producers can combat this by releasing smaller packets of food, as US brand Duncan Hines did with their cake mixes. This is also an excellent way to connect with health-conscious consumers who are looking to live a more healthy life and eat less.
5. Educate the end-consumer
Quite often, food waste occurs at the final stage of the supply chain when consumers throw out excess amounts of food. While food producers cannot have much direct impact on consumers, they can certainly help to spread awareness by talking about the environmental impact of food waste and how that waste can be used better.
For instance, food producers can educate customers about the difference between ‘best by’ and ‘use by’ dates on the packaging so that they do not throw out usable foods. Other ways include educating customers about portion control and creative ways to preserve and use up leftovers optimally.
6. Implement Anaerobic Digestion to combat waste
Food waste management is a crucial practice, both for the sake of the environment and to help consumers eat more sustainably. By taking proactive steps at the production level, food producers can reduce food waste throughout the supply chain and mitigate the industry’s impact on limited food resources. What do you think?