Tons of numbers – and food -- get thrown around when we talk about the impact of food waste in the U.S. One of the most commonly cited is 40% — that’s 40% of food produced goes to waste.
Waste means it’s not consumed by anyone, whether that be compost, livestock or — ideally — people.
Produce Retailer receives a lot of pitches for stories about fixing food waste, from on-site retail composters to selling so-called “ugly produce” at retail to campaigns to get consumers to eat banana peels (yes, this was an actual pitch — by a company schilling produce wash).
In 2016, ReFED, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit collaboration of some of the biggest names in food and retail, published an economic analysis of the greatest benefits for reducing food waste in the U.S. as part of its Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste.
The area with the highest potential? Consumer education. “Don’t turn your crisper into an oubliette,” I say, when interviewed about food waste and produce.
Retailers can’t control what happens to food once it leaves the store, but we can do our best to make sure we minimize our contribution.
But where do you start?
In February, ReFED followed up its roadmap with a Retail Food Waste Action Guide (see right) ranking solutions based on profit potential, feasibility, industry prevalence, diversion potential and economic value.
In the guide, available from ReFED.com/download, ReFED also identified best practices for grocery retailers in the three main categories:
prevention | recovery | recycling
The most profit potential lies in prevention, according to the report, which lists the following as new solutions for retailers to prevent food waste:
1. Reduced Handling:
a “low-cost prevention solution for produce among retailers,” the report says. “Less touching and movement of product during distribution reduces damage to fruits and vegetables and ensures that more product gets to stores in sellable condition.”
2. Meal Kits:
“Pre-portioned fresh ingredients for home meal preparation reduce over-buying by consumers and food waste in homes.”
3. Enhanced Demand Forecasting:
This solution “uses big data and enhanced analytics to improve the sophistication of demand forecasting and buying.” It reduces overbuying and throw-away at distribution centers and retail locations.
4. Dynamic Routing:
“involves using sensors to collect data on product freshness so that food with a shorter-than-expected shelf life can be re-routed on the spot to closer distribution centers and stores.”
5. Dynamic Pricing & Markdowns:
“uses sensors to gather real-time data about the quantity and quality of inventory on hand and of incoming orders, enabling product price adjustments in stores.”
6. Direct-to-Customer Delivery:
“Increases product velocity by transporting food direct from distribution centers or stores to customers,” the report says. “This solution can also be used to move specialty product designed for food waste reduction, such as direct-to-customer delivery of boxes of imperfect produce.”