The food waste crisis around the world has become more widespread these days, resulting in significant economic, societal, and environmental consequences. In the US, businesses and consumers scrap 25% to 40% of procured food each year. Although there are a lot of factors that contribute to food waste, the food retail industry plays a crucial part in this growing crisis.
According to Shelf Engine, a technology firm geared towards tackling the issue of food waste, supermarkets account for 10% of the overall total. This calls for retailers to effectively initiate programs and activities that limit food going into the trash bins. Here are ways that grocers can address the alarming food waste crisis:
Automating Expiration Date Tracking
The predominant reason why food goes to waste in grocery stores is because of food product expiration dates. First, grocers can address the food waste issue by adopting an automated expiration date tracking tool that flags and alerts grocers to products whose shelf life is about to expire. This gives grocers the time to strategically manage inventory, avoid over-ordering and stocking, and discount prices of soon-to-expire food products to encourage their customers to buy the products before they go to waste. Second, grocers should educate their customers in terms of differentiating expiration date labels (“best if used by”, “best before”, “sell by”, “expires on” dates) by standardizing packaging and messaging in clear formats to help customers know exactly what each date label means.
Putting Food Waste to Good Use
According to Feeding America, there are more than 38 million people in the U.S. who are food-insecure. This provides an opportunity for retailers to put potential food waste to good use. Donating surplus food to food banks and other charitable institutions to address food insecurity is a socially commendable act for grocers. Likewise, this promotes sustainability, where instead of discarding food into landfills and adding to the worsening greenhouse gas emissions, grocers are donating food to people who are suffering from hunger.
Adopting the Right Merchandising and Refrigeration Solutions
Food storage and merchandising play a critical role in the overall product integrity once food products reach the grocery stores. With this in mind, adopting the right merchandising and refrigeration solutions to store and display food products in-store is key to avoiding unnecessary food waste. Investing in solutions that are energy-efficient while maintaining food product quality, taste, freshness, and safety can significantly reduce food waste and save retailers a lot of money in the long run.
Addressing the challenge of the food waste crisis in the food retail sector entails a holistic approach for all the stakeholders involved across the supply chain. The collective efforts of consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and producers, together with stringent industry regulations, will surely have a positive impact on the food waste problem. Although this issue remains a problem today, most especially with the current health crisis, any initiative and opportunity taken to combat food waste is always a step in the right direction.