Food waste is one of the hot topics of 2016 – everything from the scale of wastage at the Olympics to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s’s ‘coffee cup battle bus’ being heavily featured in the media. This furore led us to do some digging into why it’s such big news and what consumers really think about it all.
A staggering 10 million tonnes of food goes to waste in the UK every year. Not only does this raise financial and ethical questions for consumers and businesses, it also sounds a loud warning for the environment. Landfill sites are not bottomless pits. Rearing animals for food then transporting produce over long distances takes its toll. The whole model feels unsustainable.
So it’s encouraging to see growing appreciation of the problem within the industry, with many major players taking steps. M&S and Greggs are two of the latest retailers to donate leftover food to ‘community fridges’, and most of the big supermarket brands now offer so-called ‘wonky veg’. However, with 70% of waste coming from households, it’s clear change is needed here most of all. At ABA we talk to consumers every week and there’s no sign yet they’re aware of the pivotal role they could play. Often the blame is seen to rest with supermarkets frequently vilified in the media for inefficient supply chains and a failure to redistribute unsold food. It seems most of us need to feel a bit more guilt if we’re to take a bit more action!
How could businesses help get customers on board? For a start, stores could provide clearer date labelling to minimise the binning of food, and the ongoing reduction in multi-buy promotions, which tend to encourage over-buying, could be intensified. Sainsbury’s is, arguably, a guiding light here – its high-profile ‘Waste Less Save More’ initiative encouraging customers to think about how they too can help. From partnerships with food-waste apps to recipes for leftovers, Sainsbury’s focus on making it easy to tackle wastage looks a promising approach.
One thing’s certain, the problem isn’t going anywhere, and brands that engage customers in the fightback early on will reap the rewards of positive consumer sentiment when public awareness catches up with reality.