Why food waste is your customers’ top priority and what can you do about it?


Ted Levine, EVP, Consumer Products, Retail, & Services Business Unit Managing Director at Capgemini America.

Did you know that almost 2.5 billion tons of food is wasted every year? If we could only recoup half of that, we could end world hunger. Food waste also has a huge impact on the environment.

Globally, the financial costs of food waste are estimated at $1 trillion every year. It affects everyone from businesses to consumers. The resources involved in production, processing and transportation generate a huge amount of waste. I feel that rising energy prices and skyrocketing inflation have only exacerbated matters, making the loss of food throughout the supply chain an even more pressing issue to address.

Fortunately, food waste is a solvable problem. From producers to retailers, everyone in the global food ecosystem has the opportunity to make changes that reduce costs, improve sustainability and generate new revenues by redistributing food.

Consumer awareness of food waste is growing rapidly.

Around 30% of global food production gets lost. A recent report my company shows that consumers are well aware of how dire the situation is, and they are eager to do their part to improve it. Consumers are motivated by a number of reasons, from world hunger to concerns about climate change. However, the main reason why consumers want to reduce food waste is personal: they want to reduce their own food costs.

According to the same report, 72% of consumers say they are more aware of their levels of food waste today than they were three years ago, when only 33% were aware of it. And 60% of consumers say they feel ‘guilty’ when food is wasted in their home. But it’s not just their actions that make them disappointed.

While half of companies give recipe ideas for using excess food, the same company survey says only 17% of consumers are satisfied with that approach. And while 60% of organizations say they help reduce food waste by using terms like “use by” or “use by” date, only 39% of consumers say they’re happy with it.

There are still opportunities to regain customer trust.

From IoT sensors and digital twins to dashboards with data and edge computing, digital solutions enable stakeholders in the wider food industry to address their unique challenges and collectively reduce food waste. For example, during the procurement phase of agriculture, machine learning opportunities can help farmers determine cultivation practices by studying soil and climate conditions. Food retailers can also benefit from technology, namely: smart shelves that use IoT sensors and radio frequency identification tools to track inventory to reduce unnecessary restocks or inform store management when certain products are approaching expiration dates.

Even non-technical solutions can reduce food waste. In fact, the challenge of food waste cannot be solved by companies or individuals acting alone – collaboration across the value chain is critical. This means that stakeholders in the food industry – farmers, retailers, restaurants and every organization in between – need to form cross-sector coalitions and partnerships. Enter data sharing ecosystemsbecome a member of industry associations such as the Coalition of action against food wasteWorking with government regulators and supporting non-profit organizations are just some of the collaborative tactics that can help companies accelerate their food waste initiatives.

Brands can accelerate and win the fight against food waste.

with almost 930 million tons of food wasted in retail and final consumption alone, it is the responsibility of companies to help solve this global problem.

Companies that are ready to reap the benefits of reducing food waste can take this three-pronged approach.

1. Go big in engaging consumers. Start or improve programs to raise awareness of food waste and how to prevent it. Be proactive in making these programs visible to your consumers so that they feel inspired to participate and do their part.

2. Make use of technology. Demand forecasting, temperature monitoring and inventory management can all be optimized through smarter technology solutions that rely on data. Collaborate across the supply chain to help partners better fight food waste.

3. Set goals and track your progress. Like any problem, to reduce food waste you need to understand the cause, set goals and measure your progress. Make food waste a performance measure and encourage employees to achieve your goals.

It’s time to stop food waste.

Organizations have the opportunity to go the extra mile to reduce their food waste and enjoy the benefits it brings to the world, their customers and their bottom line. As you make changes to reduce food waste, share what you do with your customers. Your profit is the profit of your customers and, most importantly, a win for the planet.

The fight against food waste is one that we can win together.

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