How fine food retailers can tackle the growing food waste problem

08 March 2022, 08:55 AM
  • With national Food Waste Action Week (7-13th March) well underway, Speciality Food explores the ways fine food retailers can tackle food waste and aid the environment
How fine food retailers can tackle the growing food waste problem

According to a recent report from the WWF, the food industry is the single largest global emitter of greenhouse gases, accountable for 1/3 of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, with food waste accounting for a whopping 8-10% of this. 

In fact, Eating Better, an alliance of organisations working to change the way meat and dairy are produced and consumed in the UK, stated that, “experts agree that net-zero is unachievable without a transformation in what we eat, how we farm, and how much food we waste.” Moreover, Project Drawdown, the world’s leading resource for climate solutions, labelled ‘reducing food waste’ as the number one solution to solve climate change. 

While tackling food waste can often seem a daunting mountain to climb, there are ways to be proactive around your business’s food waste. 

Redistributing food waste
One way in which businesses can ensure their food waste doesn’t cause concern is by redistributing it to those in need. According to WRAP, the UK’s leading sustainability charity, the volume of food surplus being redistributed has tripled since 2015. Two-thirds of this increase is from retail and manufacturing, while 23% came from Hospitality and Food Service and farms.

Food Loop is just one business trying to redistribute food waste for a good cause. The newly developed app connects those who have food with those who need it in the Kent area —saving money, helping the environment and creating better access to good food for all. Businesses such as retailers, delis, farm shops and food halls can register to the app and if they have surplus food going to waste at the end of the day, they simply upload a description of the food and it is matched with someone in need of food and then collected.

To celebrate the launch this week, Food Loop teamed up with Wasted Kitchen to create a 3-course menu for guests from the local food industry, made up entirely of surplus food - some of which was donated by the businesses attending the lunch. 

Katy Newton of Wasted Kitchen explained: “Wasted Kitchen is about encouraging people to reconnect with what they eat and think more sustainably about food – and showing that running a food business in this way can be done on a commercial basis.”

Floortje Hoette, chief executive of Produced in Kent added: “Through our work with the No Food Wasted Forum, it became apparent that an enormous amount of edible food is going to waste and by linking the businesses with community initiatives we can help to reduce the amount of food wasted off and get it to those people who need it most.”

What else can fine food retailers do with their waste?
Ultimately, the aim for businesses and consumers alike must be to reduce the amount of food going to waste. As Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP explains: “While redistribution is an important tool, it is not the answer to food waste. Priority must be given to reducing surplus and waste in the first place. This is critical for business efficiency and essential if we are to achieve our environmental objectives.” Of course, prevention is the best practice, but if indie retailers do find themselves with the problem of food waste, there are innovative ways to counteract the problem and aid the environment in the process.

Mark Kacary, managing director of Norfolk Deli, told Speciality Food how his team tackles food waste, from repurposing waste to discounting produce: “There are of course regular baskets of ‘£1 a product’ displays and some people will buy things which are perfectly good to eat but reached their best-before dates, or we use these products ourselves.”

Mark continued, “We make a lot ourselves. Slightly stale bread will become treacle tarts or bread pudding. Cheese is always being used in quiches which we make a lot of. The simple answer for a small business to avoid a lot of unnecessary waste is to make things for the business which customers WILL buy.”

“Invest in a kitchen and produce your own deli produce! I appreciate that this is not always possible but creating sandwiches using ingredients we have a surplus of, or using it in products people love, means that our food waste is not zero but is in fact very, very low.”

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