Food waste is a humanitarian and environmental problem. It’s estimated that more than a billion tons of perishable foods end up discarded from production facilities, retail stores, restaurants, hotels and home kitchens each year—enough to feed twice the number of undernourished people on the planet, according to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization. And it’s not simply the food that goes to waste. Along with it are the energy and water needed to grow, harvest, transport and package it. Food that ends up in a landfill releases methane, a greenhouse gas.
For grocers dedicated to sustainable operations, minimizing food waste is an important goal. A number of steps at the retail level can help reduce the likelihood of food spoilage.
Measure it. Having employees weigh product that is being discarded and track its value can provide meaningful metrics that can help gauge progress toward reducing waste. It might point to overordering or ineffective promotion of certain products.
Provide better shelf life guidance. Inconsistent use of terms such as “sell by” or “best before” are often blamed for causing consumers to needlessly throw out still-fresh food: Up to 20% of food wasted by consumers is disposed of while it’s still fresh. Adopting a standardized system—a practice that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supports—means supermarkets would voluntarily adopt “best if used by” terminology to indicate the date when manufacturers suggest product quality peaks.
Discount foods nearing expiration. One of the oldest strategies in the book has gone digital. Meijer recently rolled out Flashfood, an app that allows shoppers to purchase meat, produce, seafood and bakery products nearing the end of their shelf life at half-off prices. The stores post the surplus food items on the app, where customers can place and pay for orders, then pick them up at the front of the store. Stores involved in pilot testing saw food waste decline by 10% over a short time. Several other grocery chains are running pilot tests with the app.
Partner with food banks. Imperfect produce, bakery and deli products, as well as other items that would otherwise be discarded, would be welcome donations to food banks and local hunger centers.
Adopt more effective packaging and labeling practices. Choosing the right packaging is essential to maintaining quality—which, in turn, is crucial in efforts to minimize food waste and ensure food safety. Reusable closure systems, such as the Eco-Lok by Kwik Lok, help to preserve freshness and lessen carbon emissions. Closures can also include tracking and inventory information so stores can help consumers avoid waste and let stockers know when products need to be rotated out for quick sale or donation.
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This post is sponsored by Kwik Lok