Why Food Waste Is At The Top Of Your Customers’ Minds And What To Do About It

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

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Did you know that nearly 2.5 billion tons of food are wasted every year? If we could recoup just half of that, we could end world hunger. Food waste also has a huge environmental impact.

Globally, the financial cost of food waste is estimated at $1 trillion each year. It impacts everyone, from companies to consumers. The resources involved in production, processing and transport generate a huge amount of waste. I find the increasing energy prices and sky-high inflation have only exacerbated things, making the loss of food throughout the supply chain an even more urgent issue to address.

Fortunately, food waste is a solvable problem. From producers to retailers, everyone in the global food ecosystem has an opportunity to make changes that will reduce costs, enhance sustainability and generate new revenue through redistributing food.

Consumer awareness of food waste is growing quickly.

Around 30% of global food production goes wasted. A recent report from my company reveals that consumers are keenly aware of how dire the situation is, and they’re eager to do their part to improve it. Consumers are motivated by a number of reasons, from world hunger to climate change concerns. However, the number-one reason consumers want to reduce food waste is personal: They want to lower their own food costs.

In fact, according to the same report, 72% of consumers say they are more conscious about their level of food wastage today than they were just three years ago when only 33% were aware of it. And 60% of consumers say they “feel guilty” when food is wasted in their house. But it’s not just their actions they’re disappointed with.

While half of companies provide recipe ideas to use excess food, according to the same company study, only 17% of consumers say they are satisfied with that approach. And although 60% of organizations say they help reduce food waste by using terms like “best before” or “consume by” dates, only 39% of consumers say they’re pleased with that.

There are still opportunities to regain customer trust.

Digital solutions—from IoT sensors and digital twins to data-enabled dashboards and edge computing—allow stakeholders across the broader food industry to tackle their unique challenges and collectively mitigate food waste. For instance, during the agricultural sourcing stage, machine learning capabilities 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 and thus can limit unnecessary restocks or inform store management when certain products are nearing expiration dates.

Even non-technical solutions can reduce food waste. In fact, the food-waste challenge cannot be solved by businesses or individuals acting alone—collaboration across the value chain is key. This means food industry stakeholders—farmers, retailers, restaurants and every organization in between—need to form cross-industry coalitions and partnerships. Entering into data-sharing ecosystems, joining industry associations such as the Coalition of Action on Food Waste, working with governmental regulators and supporting non-profits are just a few examples of the collaborative tactics that can help companies expedite their food waste initiatives.

Brands can accelerate the fight against food waste and win.

With nearly 930 million tons of food wasted at the retail and final consumption stages alone, the onus is on corporations to help solve this global issue.

Companies ready to reap the rewards of less food waste can take this three-pronged approach.

1. Go big on engaging consumers. Start or enhance programs to boost awareness of food waste and how to avoid it. Be proactive about making these programs visible to your consumers so they feel inspired to participate and do their part, too.

2. Leverage 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 monitor your progress. Like any problem, in order to fix food waste, you need to understand the root cause, set goals and measure your progress. Make food waste a performance metric and incentivize employees to achieve your goals.

It’s time to fight food waste.

Organizations have an opportunity to step up to reduce their food waste and enjoy the benefits it offers the world, their customers and their bottom line. As you implement changes to reduce food waste, share what you’re doing with your customers. Your wins are your customers’ wins and, more importantly, a win for the planet.

The battle against food waste is one we can win together.

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