Each year, food manufacturers produce billions of pounds of food waste – most of which is avoidable or reusable under alternative circumstances. And while much noise has been made over the last few years in regards to curbing food waste, there’s still a lot to be done.
The food waste epidemic
It’s easy to turn a blind eye – and many outside of the food industry likely have no idea how big of an issue it is – but we’re currently facing a food waste epidemic and things don’t appear to be getting much better.
According to a report from the Food Waste Alliance, it’s estimated that 30 percent of all food grown worldwide may be lost or wasted. And because of the growing population, global food production will need to increase by 60 percent by 2050. That means, at this current rate, food waste will skyrocket.
In the report, Food Waste Alliance defines food waste as, “Any solid or liquid food substance, raw or cooked, which is discarded, or intended or required to be discarded. Food waste includes the organic residues (such as carrot or potato peels) generated by the processing, handling, storage, sale, preparation, cooking and serving of food.
While the vast majority of food waste is recycled, donated, or reused by major manufacturers, it would be much more efficient if manufacturers learned how to reduce waste in the first place. This would mitigate the industry’s impact on food sources and improve sustainability at multiple levels of the supply chain.
How food manufacturers can reverse this trend
Food manufacturers play a major role in reversing the food waste trend. This can be done both through influencing supplier and end consumer behaviors, as well as through direct and tangible action.
Let’s take a look at some tips and strategies:
1. Improve packaging
“Packaging plays an important role in protecting and preserving food throughout the supply chain and in the home,” FoodDrinkEurope.eu explains. “Simply reducing packaging is not always preferable because as packaging is reduced and/or compromised, the likelihood of food spoilage arising increases. Eventually a point is reached at which the negative environmental impact of food wastage outweighs the environmental benefits of using less packaging material.”
If reduced packaging isn’t the answer, what’s the best solution? Suggestions include providing clearer expiration date labels, offering better cooking/freezing/thawing instructions and making it easier to dispense food without compromising the remaining unused food in the packaging.
2. Provide better consumer education
Food waste doesn’t always happen in a manufacturer’s facility. Sometimes it’s the end consumer who ends up causing food waste. And while the manufacturer isn’t necessarily to blame for this, there’s a lot they can do to help consumers reduce their own food waste through better education.
Food manufacturers can be vocal about the problem of food waste and provide practical tips for customers looking to reduce their individual impact. This includes controlling portions, learning to properly preserve leftovers and other practical suggestions.
3. Improve the accuracy of forecasting
Many manufacturers unnecessarily waste raw ingredients because of inaccurate forecasting. They assume they need to produce a certain number of products and, therefore, order enough raw ingredients to fulfill these needs. But when they wind up needing less, perishable goods go to waste.
With better and more accurate forecasting models, food manufacturers can spend less time guessing and more time maximizing the ingredients they have.
4. Be strategic with portion sizes
One of the easiest ways to reduce food waste is to curb portion size. Food manufacturer Duncan Hines provides a perfect example of what this looks like. Knowing that most of their cake mixes are much too large for an individual or small family, they came out with a new line, known as Duncan Hines Perfect Size Cakes to satisfy a wider demographic that was previously discarding as much as half of a baked cake.
5. Adopt ERP software
If you don’t currently have an ERP solution in place, then you’re most likely wasting thousands of dollars worth of food without even realizing it. ERP software is the single best solution for companies looking to mitigate food waste – it’s not even close.
With an ERP system, you can track lots, analyze shelf life, avoid overstocking, create accurate inventory orders, avoid cross contamination and everything in between. It’s the one solution that does it all.