According to the Department of Agriculture, every year, supermarket chains generate 43 billion pounds (21.5 million tons) of methane-emitting waste and make up 11 percent of the food industry’s overall food waste each year.
While food waste occurs across all areas of the food supply chain (totalling over 40 percent of all fresh produce), a majority of food wasted in the United States and other western nations occurs within the retail and consumer areas of the food supply chain. Supermarket waste is usually extremely avoidable and often based on cosmetic deficiency (not a deficiency in nutrients), resulting in unnecessary food scraps.
Though the majority of that waste comes from consumers and food waste at home, it’s important to recognise the 10 percent that comes solely from losses at the retail and grocery store level. The solution to this problem can be reached from several approaches which are listed below, here are 5 ways to contribute towards food waste reduction within grocery stores.
Grocers often pride themselves on their beautiful fresh produce pyramids and display bins, but occasionally these displays could actually harm the earth. At the bottom of these piles is produce with more blemishes. Considering that these items are placed on the bottom, those blemishes then worsen and lead to an overstock.
Some grocers might assume that consumers are more likely to buy off a full shelf. However, putting an abundance of fresh produce on display can result in perishable items going bad before they’re sold and consumed.
If grocers were to put less on display, they wouldn’t be faced with overstock and would automatically lower the amount of food waste coming from supermarkets. Just as important as reducing what’s on display and understanding what your customers are buying so that you can order in appropriate quantities to meet that demand, further preventing waste from happening.
- DISCOUNT UGLY FRUIT
The most trivial reason for food waste in grocery retail is that a lot of fruit and vegetables that look a little weird or misshapen are discarded before they even get to the shop floor.
This is nonsensical for a number of reasons, not least because it means stores miss out on a lot of sales by throwing out perfectly good food.
Consumers expect grocery stores to look perfect, but at the end of the day, they’re likely to buy discounted items even if they’re visually blemished. If these items are still put on the shelf at a discounted price due to their imperfections, the amount of immediate food waste from the grocer will automatically be significantly lower.
Another work around for imperfections in fresh produce is to reformat the items, through making fresh juices and fruit salads.
And given the growing consumer concern around food waste, it seems that there is a market for ugly veggies. Some are already capitalising on this – companies like Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market exclusively sell imperfect produce that cannot be sold to grocery stores.
When all attempts have been made to rotate through stock and there is still an excess that will go to waste, food donations to organisations such as SecondBite and Foodbank really help to give food products a second chance to be consumed.
Simultaneously, donating food products helps provide meals for those less fortunate and in need of items that were otherwise going to be wasted.
- TRAIN STAFF IN FOOD SAVING PRACTICES
Store team training should of course be a high priority for retailers on all fronts. But the urgency of the climate crisis makes it all the more important to ensure that your teams are up to scratch on their food waste knowledge.
Incorporating specific courses on food waste into your training program will heighten employee awareness on the issue and encourage them to do their part in fixing it within the context of the store.
- INCREASE NUMBER OF STORES
Smaller, locally-based format stores will become the norm. Micro-format supermarkets create a smaller footprint and allow for a faster penetration, but also cost savings — lower rents, fewer parking requirements, fewer staff, and less inventory.
Having a greater concentration of smaller supermarkets spread across a suburban area leads to customers purchasing smaller portions on a more regular basis. This is due to the local grocer’s shorter proximity making it easier for consumers to not over-purchase items and simply shop for what they immediately need.
Food retailers have a lot to gain from designing a circular strategy to reduce food waste across the supply chain, but they aren’t expected to do this alone. Collaboration with farmers, food processors, nonprofit organisations, AgTech and social ventures in the broader food ecosystem will help food retailers achieve their food waste goals.
And as food retailers take up a deeper interest in their communities’ well-being, they can share the goal of reducing food waste and create a robust relationship with their suppliers and customers.