Food waste occurs when a food that could be consumed but isn’t—whether due to spoilage, premature discarding, loss in transit, improper storage, or buying practices. Some examples of food waste might include tomatoes that fall off the tomato truck in transit, a carton of tomatoes that spoils because of improper storage or overbuying, and excess food purchased and discarded by consumers.
American consumers waste more than $150 billion, or 35 million tons, of food each year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, it isn't just consumers that are responsible for the billion-dollar food waste problem. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that 52 percent of produce grown in this country is wasted because it never gets harvested, is never sold to consumers, or is lost or spoiled during storage or transit.
By taking steps to reduce food waste, manufacturers can not only promote sustainability but can also boost their profits. It's a win-win. Here are seven food waste reduction strategies that can help do just that.
Educate consumers through tips and educational messages printed on food packaging. Teaching consumers about shopping and meal planning, best practices for storing food, donating unwanted food, and composting can help them buy what they can use and use what they buy.
Package products in a range of portion sizes, using resealable packaging or individually sealed compartments. In addition, consider developing more innovative packaging solutions, such as embedding silver nanoparticles into plastic milk storage bottles to double the length of time before milk spoils, or use packaging that can detect when the product inside has gone bad.
Standardize Date Labels
Product date labels can be confusing to consumers. Instead of using a range of date labels that include terms like "sell by", "best before", "use by", "expires on", and so on, use standardized date labels that make it clear to the consumer whether the date indicates spoilage or just that the product is outside the window of peak quality.
Develop natural, sustainable solutions to the problem of food spoilage, such as an invisible, edible barrier—made from unused parts of the produce such as leaves and stems—that protects from mold, water loss, oxidation, and bugs. Sustainable solutions like this may double the shelf life of certain food products.
Innovations to Extend Shelf Life
Explore product innovations that can extend the shelf life of foods and beverages, such as mold inhibitors for yeast raised products or natural preservatives.
Just because produce doesn't look perfect doesn't mean it's inedible. Source “ugly produce” that might otherwise be discarded due to imperfections that don’t negatively affect the taste or quality of the product.
Optimize Supply Chain
Use software solutions to optimize supply chains so your products ship and reach store shelves more quickly. Reducing the time it takes to get your products on store shelves can help to reduce food waste.
Taking these and other steps to reduce food waste is a win-win proposition for food manufacturers. It not only makes your business more sustainable, but also boosts profits, builds shareholders' confidence, and highlights your company’s commitment to sustainability.
Watson is a leader in developing innovative products and sustainable solutions that help address the food waste problem. Visit the Watson website to learn more about our mold inhibitors for yeast raised products and view our complete Bakery Ingredient product line.