Leading the Way in Food Waste Management
At A Glance
- Sustainability must be more than a buzzword for grocers; they must actively pursue reduced carbon emissions and food waste.
- Driving newer revenue processes and avoiding food waste at landfills is imperative.
- New technological innovations and solutions are helping grocers power greener futures.
- This article deep dives into how grocers can play a pivotal role in building sustainable communities.
The weekend has arrived, and grocers are ready to stock their refrigerators with visually appealing, high-quality produce. Store managers are exasperated when purging through the crispers, as good produce nearing its expiration date looks blemished and will get thrown in the garbage costing the store vital profit. The manager must face the timeless dilemma between overstocking produce to keep the shelves full and inviting and avoiding costly waste.
There is a growing awareness of food wastage and its impact on society. In the U., 34% of food is wasted annually, equating to 40 billion tons of wasted food. The amount of food wasted requires immediate redressal. High-quality food consumes land, labor, water, and energy. Grocers are in a position to create value and lead sustainability initiatives.
Nutritional Waste Conundrum
Food waste is detrimental to the environment and society. Grocers can be a force to drive systemic changes in the food system.
One of the primary reasons for food waste at grocery stores is overstocking to meet consumer expectations. Often consumers don’t purchase the displayed products, and the excess inventory finds itself expired and eventually in the trash bin. Healthy vegetables or fruits which are bruised or blemished may also not be purchased and ultimately be wasted.
Another driver of food waste is quality control and inadequate conditions of storage. If products are not stored at appropriate temperatures they spoil faster. If the products do not meet the grocer’s expected quality, they are not be placed on shelves and are eventually wasted.
Consumers feel guilty wasting food, especially when apprised about the nutritional food moving to landfills but often complain that there is no expense calculator to track the food dollars thrown in the trash. The food in the trash lands in landfills and contributes to producing methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and nitrogen dioxide. The gasses are responsible for greenhouse emissions, leading to algae blooms and environmental detriments.
According to Grocery Doppio's latest Digital Performance Scorecard, sustainability is a C-level priority for grocers. Forty-three percent of grocers will appoint an executive to lead enterprise sustainability this year. Grocers must devise strategic sustainability plans to create value and encourage change in managing food waste.
One of the significant challenges that grocers face is traversing the complex landscape of collecting, sorting, and transporting food waste, which often involves coordination with authorities and contenting with various regulations, which is an arduous and painstaking task.
To alleviate many of these challenges, digital startups have innovative solutions designed to help grocers improve their businesses, generate new revenue streams, and improve their bottom lines. A deep dive into these startups is below:
Enterprise Solutions Strengthened by A.I. Technology
Strella Biotechnology - Founded in 2017, a food tech firm using biosensor technology to measure the freshness and ripeness of fruits and vegetables, enabling grocers to predict shelf life and improve the quality of groceries. Winner of the Seattle Geekwire Pitch competition, supporting sustainable efforts across stakeholders in the supply chain.
OneThird - An A.I.-based food tech startup founded in 2019, uses cloud platforms to optimize supply chain logistics and offer automated insights from a handheld scanner. The technology and insights are integrated into the mobile app to predict and reduce food loss.
Sauce - Food often gets wasted at restaurants and stores due to limited shelf life and perishability. Sauce offers commission-free delivery and revenue-boosting sales by offering dynamic pricing on takeaway deliveries and groceries. The pickup platform between direct deliveries and third-party platforms was founded in 2017.
Reassigning the Surplus
Copia - On a mission to reduce food waste and redistribute food surplus to insecure households and food banks, the company came into existence in 2011. It leverages technology, connects businesses to redistribute surplus, and aims to create a beneficial social and environmental impact.
Food Cowboy - Bridging communication between food companies, retailers, and charities, the startup, founded in 2011, donates unmarketable food to charities and food banks. It has spearheaded educational campaigns for businesses and communities on food waste and its effects. In addition, it enables companies to file paperwork for philanthropic tax benefits.
412 Food Rescue - The non-profit came into existence in 2015 and works with food retailers, grocers, and volunteers to distribute delicious food to charities and food banks. They have saved 21,293,707 lbs of food and donated 17,744,756 meals across America.
Salvaging Displeasing Food
Peat - Founded in 2021, the company works with grocers and restaurateurs to improve their ESG goals by tracking food waste and upcycling them into mushrooms. Peat works with its partners on business models to reduce trash management and provision upcycled mushrooms sustainably.
Mill - Founded in 2020 and launched in 2023, this subscription-based company recycles trash into nourishing chicken feed. The company offers an innovative trash management system wherein the waste gets recycled in a wifi connected bin. The two-foot tall container is integrated with a mobile app and converts waste into chicken feed.
Cajú Love - The founders developed cashew fruit meat while experimenting in the kitchen in 2021. The alternative meat is produced from the byproducts of cashew apples, a vestigial product of the nut industry. Each upcycled box saves five cashew apples from ending up in a landfill.
Building a sustainable future is imperative, and grocers play a crucial role in the supply chain from farm to store. A holistic transformation approach that encourages change in the consumer mindset is a call to action that must be taken. Grocers are uniquely positioned to improve their bottom line and relationship with consumers by being the leaders in food waste management.