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Food and Beverage Manufacturers Drive Down Waste

In a post on thinkeatsave.org, waste reduction has been identified as the number one trend in food and beverage for 2014:

For some time now manufacturers' sustainability efforts have been zeroed in on, with a more recent shift in focus being to reduce food lost or waste, wherever possible. Food loss during production and food waste at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain will be heavily scrutinized. Ingredients derived from the waste stream will also hold enormous potential.

Campbell’s Culinary TrendScape also cites food waste awareness as a top trend for the year.

These pronouncements come in the wake of the food industry’s first-ever analysis of food waste data collected directly from food manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers. Released in June of last year, the study was conducted by consulting firm BSR and commissioned by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), a cross-sector industry initiative led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Among the study’s findings, which are expected to accelerate industry food waste reduction efforts:

  • The food waste profiles of the food manufacturing sector and the grocery retail/wholesale sector differ significantly, which reflects their different operating environments. Extrapolated to the entire United States, in 2011:
    • The manufacturing sector generated a larger volume of food waste (44.3 billion pounds), but the large majority (94.6 percent) was diverted from landfills to higher uses, such as donation and recycling.
    • The retail and wholesale sectors generated less food waste (3.8 billion pounds), but they diverted a smaller proportion (55.6 percent) to higher uses.
  • Despite significant differences in the total amount of food waste the sectors generate, they donated and disposed of similar amounts:
    • Amount of food waste disposed:
      • Manufacturing: 2.4 billion pounds
      • Retail and wholesale: 1.7 billion pounds
    • Amount of food donated:
      • Manufacturing: 700 million pounds
      • Retail and wholesale: 670 million pounds
  • In total, 4.1 billion pounds of food waste was disposed in 2011 in landfills or incinerators. This represents only 8.5 percent of the 48.1 billion pounds of food waste generated collectively across the food manufacturing, retail, and wholesale sectors.
  • Based on the survey results, companies have opportunities to continue to reduce the amount of food waste they generate within the supply chain, as well as to identify options for directing it toward higher uses, as outlined in the EPA’s Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy.
    • Food manufacturers have an opportunity to continue to reduce the amount of food waste they generate and to move up the food waste hierarchy to increase the percentage they donate.
    • Food retailers and wholesalers have an opportunity to divert more waste from landfills to higher uses, while continuing to focus on reducing the amount of food waste they generate.

To support this effort, an article on Food Drink Europe lists six ways food manufacturers can help consumers drive down waste:

  • Extend shelf life through packaging and processing innovation.
  • Provide clear date labels.
  • Provide clear storage, freezing, defrosting and preparation instructions.
  • Make dispensing food easier.
  • Provide a variety of portion sizes.
  • Inform consumers about packaging and labeling innovations that help prevent food spoilage.

The BSR report notes eight “farm to fork” actions taking place in the private sector (of which manufacturers are a key component) that are facilitating waste reduction efforts:

 
Source: BSR
 
Enabling technologies that can affect and reduce waste through the supply chain inlcude dynamic planning and scheduling tools, what-if analytics, real-time visibility, agility for seasonality, capacity, and maintenance management, and automation of process control. Among the benefits being realized by adopting these strategies and the tools to implement them: better decision making, ,insight into waste before occurance, stronger internal and external connections, more reliable delivery on shorter production and supply schedules, greater business efficiency, and significant cost savings.
 
Posted by Tom Muth Senior Manager, Product Marketing, Epicor

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