By: Will Herman, Manufacturing Sector Lead
Recently, I took my partner out for dinner. Nothing remarkable about that. Except that as she noted rather drily, the occasion was long overdue. I guess we simply got out of the habit after the pandemic and then there’s the cost of living and soaring food prices and any other number of reasons to eat in. What was remarkable was the size of the portions served; two enormous platters that could, or should, have satisfied a party of four.
Great value? Perhaps. Too much of a good thing? Definitely.
Looking around the pub, I wondered how many of its patrons were feeling similarly over
faced, and how much of what came out its kitchen would return, only to be binned.
No time to waste
Recently we marked both the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (September 29th), and World Food Day (October 16th). So what, you might say. There are, it seems, multiple designations for every topical issue and challenge we face, as well as all manner of other things. Every Star Wars fan knows the significance of May 4th . But did you know January 4th was National Spaghetti Day? Or that June 4th was Hug Your Cat Day? Apparently, it’s OK to hug someone else’s cat if you don’t have one. It’s all too easy to be a little cynical.
But food waste is undeniably one of the most significant challenges the world is facing today, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to note the numerous days designated to this and related issues such as water use.
The fact is, if the global population increases to nearly 10 billion by 2050 as predicted, we will need to increase food production by approximately 56%. Despite this alarming fact – half of the world’s vegetated land is already used for agriculture – we are still wasting millions of tonnes of food every year. By the time this year’s World Food Day comes around, more than 58m tonnes of food will have been wasted in the EU, since October 2022 (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/env_wasfw/default/table?lang=en) which equates to 16% of the total greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the EU food system (https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2760/218540). In the UK alone, more than 9m tonnes of food waste is generated, while on average, British households discard more than £800 worth of food, each year (https://www.materialsrecovery.co.uk/blog/food-waste-in-2022).
At the same time, the rising cost of food means that UK shoppers buying the same items as they were one year ago, have seen their grocery bill rise by £811 according to the latest data from Kantar (https://wrap.org.uk/resources/report/wrap-food-loss-waste-research-summary-report).
How acting sustainably can reduce bills & waste
Meanwhile, according to WRAP, more than 60% of consumers believe that their grocery bill is the most difficult household expenditure to reduce, and surprisingly perhaps, nearly half of those surveyed confirmed that they were wasting the same or even more food, than they were a year ago. Less surprising then, is that 57% of UK consumers said they would like help, to be more resourceful and reduce their food waste.
Clearly, reducing food waste is key to reducing food demand, which means it is a vital part of the overall strategy for feeding the world in a sustainable way. There is no easy fix, and the reality is that to achieve the global goal of halving food loss and waste by 2030, significant action throughout our supply chains is still required, from production and manufacturing to brands and retail.
Make no mistake, every business and stakeholder in the value chain has a role to play, and it is encouraging to see so many key players taking action. From the trade associations working to reform legislation such as the Waste Framework Directive which forms part of the wider Biodiversity and Food Package published in July by the European Commission, to brands launching innovative apps designed to help consumers use left over food items in their fridge, there is much to be positive about.
And yet a great deal more stills needs to be done and while it is easy to be cynical, the fact is that for many, international designated days provide a powerful, credible, and ready-made communications platform from which to launch longer-term campaigns.
It’s never been more important to seize the day. If we don’t, then quite simply, we will all go hungry. So, what will you be doing by the time the next World Food Day comes around?