17 September 2020, 07:55 AM
  • Despite increasing concerns around food waste, many businesses still lack the processes and guidelines to address the issue. So what opportunities does this present for retailers and foodservice outlets?
Report highlights opportunities for sector to tackle food waste

In the wake of campaigns like Zero Waste Week and Love Food Hate Waste, and following the publication of the Citizens’ Assembly report on climate change, it seems that food waste is an increasing concern across the UK.

But as members of the public, business owners and employees become more aware of the issue and are determined to make a change, many simply lack the resources needed to tackle the problem.

Too Good to Go, a food app that lists businesses’ unsold food to local diners, recently released a report that details insight into food waste in the food-to-go sector. The Food Waste Has Got To Go report analysed survey results from employees across the sector, as well as consumer behaviour.

It revealed that 84% of UK food-to-go employees are aware of how much food is wasted in their business each day, and it’s leading to negative emotions such as disappointment, frustration and sadness.

What’s more, only 46% of employees said their business had guidelines detailing best practice for managing food waste. Poor stock management accounts for one-third of food waste in the sector, whilst almost two-thirds of businesses lack a stock management process to reduce food waste.

While the survey revealed a clear interest in reducing food waste, less than half of employees surveyed (45%) said that they receive sustainability awareness or employee sessions on reducing food waste, making it difficult for those in the food-to-go sector to implement changes.

Speaking about the report, Jamie Crummie, co-founder of Too Good To Go, said: “It is clear that employees in the food-to-go sector are becoming more aware of the issue of food waste in their business. And the negative impact this is having on employee wellbeing is a cause for concern.

“There also remains a stark knowledge gap in the impact of food waste. Over a third of employees are still not aware of the environmental impact of throwing away food. With sustainability rising up the agenda for employees and consumers, it is vital for food-to-go businesses to step up and ensure that they’re actively playing a role to reduce food waste.”

It’s not only the food-to-go and foodservice sectors that are eager to reduce food waste though, as we’re seeing an increased number of retailers addressing the issue, and an obvious increase in consumers looking to reduce their impact, too.

During lockdown, food waste in UK households decreased by one-third during lockdown, according to Love Food Hate Waste. On top of that, Google and social media searches for leftover recipes skyrocketed. Magnet Kitchens recently revealed that Google searches for leftover recipes have more than doubled compared to last year, with chicken, lamb, pork, beef and rice proving to be the top five most searched for leftover ingredients of 2020.

It seems that retailers are beginning to step up, too. Tesco has teamed up with environment charity Hubbub to launch a six-week experiment that offers advice to 55 households to help them reduce food waste. More recently, Northern Ireland retail group Musgrave has partnered with FareShare, the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste. The group will trial a new digital platform that links stores with local charities and community groups for the donation of surplus food.

James Hall & Co, Spar wholesaler for the north of England, has also joined up with Too Good to Go to offer customers ‘magic bags’ of miscellaneous surplus stock that’s close to the end of its shelf life yet still within its best before date.

So what does this mean for the future? We could see more of the more multiples implement various measures and campaigns to show that they’re reducing food waste. For indie retailers, there are an increasing number of opportunities as well, including working with suppliers to help get surplus and ‘ugly’ produce to market; partnering with apps like Too Good To Go; and even helping customers by sharing recipes for using up leftovers, something that groups like The National Trust are increasingly doing too.

Retailers and foodservice outlets may also consider implementing food stock processes to ensure food is sold or passed on before its best-before date, as well as training staff in best practices. Showing your commitment to reducing food waste also shows your customers that you are taking responsibility for your own impact, as well as helping others to reduce theirs.

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