Did you know that 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not even consumed? According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), that means if food waste were its own country, it would be the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Which, quite frankly, is staggering. And we haven’t even begun to cover the myriad other issues food waste contributes to — such as climate change, pollution and waste, food insecurity, nature and biodiversity loss, and so much more.
The UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report 2021 “estimates that food waste from households, retail establishments and the food service industry totals 931 million tonnes each year” — with 26% coming from food service and 13% from retail.
While these two contributors pale in comparison to the biggest offender — households at 61% — that doesn’t mean that brands can’t play an important role in reducing how much food is thrown away going forward.
As a whole, the world’s population is “throwing away 17% of food available at retail, food service and consumer level” — meaning there’s a good deal of room for improvement. And, thus, signals a major opportunity for brands to step up.
Yes, consumers represent the largest contributors to food waste on a global level. But what they need are education and resources. That’s where brands can make their mark in 2022 and beyond — by providing the knowledge and support consumers need to help combat food waste.
This article will take a closer look at the current state of global food waste, as well as provide a few tips for brands who want to enter the food waste conversation and make a difference. Additionally, we’ll look at three brands that are combating food waste in their own ways!
What Are the Latest Stats on Global Food Waste?
When looking to better understand the current food waste situation, look no further than the March 2021 UNEP “Food Waste Index Report 2021”.
This report provides the first truly comprehensive and statistically significant data on global food waste — and reveals that previous measures and guesstimates have been severely lacking. In fact, the Food Waste Index’s global estimates suggest that “global consumer food waste could be approximately twice the size of previous estimates.”
And as mentioned earlier, households and consumers are the top offenders. However, contrary to what was previously believed — it’s not just high-income households and upper-income countries that are guilty of wasting food.
The Food Waste Index discovered that “levels of household food waste (the total of edible and inedible parts) are similar for high‑income, upper middle-income and lower middle-income countries” — meaning the issue is not unique to any one group of people.
Food waste is a predicament that requires everyone’s concern and consideration on a global level.
As best summarized in the UNEP report:
“Food waste means all of the environmental impacts of food production without any of the benefits of people being fed. With widespread food insecurity for many hundreds of millions around the globe, addressing food waste is a critical issue to creating low-impact, healthy and resilient food systems.”
Clearly, food loss and waste is a problem that requires our immediate attention and action. But what can be done? And how can brands help turn the tide in 2022?
Let’s take a look at a few ways brands can step up to help combat this issue. But first, we’ll address why brands should even care about food waste to begin with.
Why Should Brands Care About Food Waste?
As nice as it would be for brands to care about food waste for purely altruistic reasons — at the end of the day, it comes down to how consumer opinions will impact revenue.
But in this case, that’s not a bad thing. According to Food Insight, food waste is top-of-mind for younger generations, with those “45 years and younger (being) more likely to think about food waste while grocery shopping, eating out and eating at home.”
And with increased interest in sustainability and environmental protection also growing among younger audiences, brands would be smart to do their part in fighting food waste in order to better connect with this group of consumers.
But it’s not just Millennials and Gen Z consumers who care about food waste. According to the Michigan State University Food Literacy and Engagement Poll, respondents “from all age groups are concerned about reducing food waste, but none more so than the oldest demographic.”
This poll also discovered that “nearly 95% of respondents aged 55 and older reported reducing food waste at home, while 81% of those aged 30 and under did the same.” Clearly, this epidemic is important to a wide range of consumers — meaning it should also be important to brands.
Furthermore, brands would be smart to step into the role of educators. According to Frontiers, 61% of consumers reported that “they did not seek out information about strategies to reduce household food waste”, and the level of knowledge also varied greatly among generational groups.
Again, it was younger consumers who reported more interest in food waste — with 51% of Millennials reporting that they do actively seek information on reducing housed food waste. Below, you can see a breakdown of the motivating factors consumers report for reducing food waste.
As we can see, the biggest reasons spurring on food waste reduction are “wanting to set an example for my children and/or others” and “feeling guilty about waste in general”. We should also note that 65% of respondents cited “thinking about greenhouse gases, energy and water resources it took to get the food on my plate”.
Clearly, consumers are interested in combating food waste, and brands who want to connect with a wide range of consumers would be wise to start doing their part sooner rather than later.
How Can Brands Help Combat Food Waste?
While not the biggest problem when it comes to creating food waste, brands are in a unique position to educate consumers on the obstacles and challenges we all face.
To turn the tide and reduce food waste in the coming years, we need to better understand its current state and identify actionable steps we can all take to reduce food waste.
In order to provide some helpful tips brands can use in 2022, we’re going to look at three brands that have been successfully combating food waste over the past few years.
1. Too Good To Go — Educate Consumers & Provide Actionable Steps
Too Good To Go (TGTG), an app that connects consumers to stores and restaurants with unsold food surplus, has been going strong since 2015. Founded in Denmark, the app quickly made its way to many major European cities and even launched in North America in 2020.
The brand’s entire purpose is to fight and reduce food waste. And the most important weapon in their arsenal? Educating consumers. When you land on the TGTG homepage, you’re immediately hit with a cold, hard fact: “More than ⅓ of food is wasted.”
While TGTG’s approach may be shocking to visitors, it’s for a good reason. You can’t work to improve an issue you’re unaware of. By providing consumers with educational materials that allow them to better understand the current state of food waste and its implications — TGTG is doing its part to combat food waste every day via its extensive Knowledge Hub.
Realistically, just using TGTG’s services counts as an actionable step towards reducing food waste. But that’s not all TGTG is doing to fight this growing issue. The brand has taken it a step further and launched its global “Movement Against Food Waste”.
The movement’s ambition?
“To inspire and empower everyone to take action against food waste. We know that to live and breathe this every day, we need to turn our words into actions. With this in mind we have set out a new ambition - to contribute in every way we can to building the global food waste movement. It's only when we all come together to fight food waste, that we'll be able to generate a positive change in society.”
This movement also has four main pillars and areas of impact:
Households: Inspire 50 million people
Businesses: Work with 75,000 businesses
School: Inspire 500 schools
Public Affairs: Impact regulation in 5 countries
The Takeaway: By working to educate a myriad of different people — from private citizens to school leaders to public officials, TGTG is dedicated to its brand mission and stands staunchly behind its brand values.
If you’re looking for ways your brand can fight food waste in 2022, start with educating consumers. After all, we can’t fight a problem we don’t understand. Then, follow up with some actionable steps consumers can take to help reduce food waste — big or small.
2. UpCircle — Give Food By-Products A New Life
Source: Setting Mind
There’s more than one way to combat food waste — proven by organic, zero waste skincare line UpCircle.
Founded in 2016, UpCircle is a perfect example of a brand one wouldn’t immediately associate with the concept of food waste. However, they prove that you don’t need to necessarily be a food brand to fight food waste.
UpCircle’s first foray into zero waste products was its coffee-based scrubs, which gave “used coffee ground a new lease on life.” Since then, the brand has discovered myriad other food by-products to reuse. From residual chai tea spices to leftover fruit pits to used flower petals from florists and wedding venues — anything can be “UpCircled”.
This innovative brand’s ultimate goal is to “provide competitively priced, high performing products from upcycled ingredients” to demonstrate “that the beauty industry can become a lot less wasteful.”
Combine this with their mission — “to leave the world better than we found it by transforming ingredients that would otherwise be discarded into natural, organic beauty products” — and you can see why UpCircle is a stellar example of a brand that fights food waste in a unique manner.
The Takeaway: You don’t need to be a food or beverage brand to join the fight against food waste. There are plenty of other ways that brands can get involved — like using food by-products that would have otherwise been thrown away.
So, check to see if your brand’s products could be made with cast-off food by-products. Even if it’s only one of two ingredients, everything counts.
3. Uglies Potato Chips — Refuse to Follow Outdated Rules
Source: Uglies Snacks
Uglies Potato Chips is another brand that’s tackling food waste head-on by making their main product — kettle-cooked potato chips — using “failed” or “rejected” produce.
But why is certain produce rejected for use? Well, in 1945, the USDA Grades and Standards for Fruits and Vegetables defined what “perfect produce” was: unblemished, symmetrical, and perfectly round. Anything less than ideal was thrown away.
Over time, such “expectations have driven up the costs of produce and created the problem of food waste.”
According to Uglies, “6 billion pounds of produce goes unharvested or unsold for aesthetic reasons” every year” — meaning 26% of all produce gets rejected for cosmetic reasons alone.
Those imperfect, orphaned potatoes are the very ones that Uglies use. Too big, too small, the wrong color, blemished — Uglies take them all. Since 2017, this sustainable brand has helped reduce food waste in America by saving over 4,200,000 pounds of potatoes.
But for Uglies, it doesn’t end with providing love to the unwanted produce of the world. They’re also working to educate consumers about food waste in the US by explaining that “controlling our food waste is the first step in creating a sustainable food system”.
As upsetting as it is, 40% of food produced in the US goes uneaten — that’s astronomical. And according to Uglies, if consumers reduced their food waste by just 15%, we would be able to feed 25 million Americans.
The Takeaway: When it comes to sourcing ingredients and materials for your brand’s products, take a step back and reconsider the currently accepted rules.
Refusing to use a potato or tomato because it isn’t aesthetically perfect? That’s some drivel from days gone by. And there are plenty of other situations where ingredients and materials go unused thanks to antiquated standards.
The short of it? Find alternative uses for neglected resources and food scraps. Turn overripe fruit into fruit jerky, like Snact, or make gin out of surplus apples, plums, and apricots, like Reliquum. Or maybe even used leftover bread to make beer, like Toast Ale!
There are so many opportunities to combat foods waste, and every brand can do its part.
Minimizing food waste will have positive effects on almost every aspect of modern life. From improving global food security to reducing the effects of climate change — there are plenty of humanitarian reasons for brands to get involved.
On a more practical level, consumers are increasingly demanding that brands do their part to combat food waste — and will award their purchases and loyalty to those that keep up with the times and align with their values.
Want to know how your target audiences feel about food waste? We recommend using brand tracking software, which provides reliable, accurate consumer data — allowing you to gain insight into consumer behavior and make better marketing decisions.