Managing and trying to minimize food waste is a challenge for nearly all parties in the food, beverage, and grocery retail food industry. Consumers are constantly calling upon companies to do their part to reduce food waste. They challenge companies to more concisely monitor and measure food waste contributors and causes.
During the global COVID-19 pandemic, more people are working from home and ordering home delivery and takeout, shining a new spotlight on food waste challenges. Total food waste in the United States is estimated at 80 billion pounds every year. Household food waste makes up roughly 61% of that total. This is vastly higher than the 26% and 13% food waste from foodservice and retail according to the UN Environment Programme.
These statistics are alarming. As other environmental concerns gain momentum with consumers, food waste will continue to be a key focus area for recommended change.
Why food waste is a concern
Food waste has significant irreversible environmental consequences. The production cycle of food demands water and energy, generating greenhouse gases. In fact, 11% of the world’s emissions like methane, carbon dioxide, and chlorofluorocarbons, which contribute to global warming, are due to food waste decaying in landfills, according to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). Also according to WWF, the excess production of food is approximately equal to the greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars.
Finding solutions for food waste starts with supply chains
Identifying and implementing solutions to the growing problem of food waste may be most impactful when facilitated upstream in the supply chain. As food science and crop innovations expand, companies are looking for ways to extend the product life of the most perishable products and highest food waste contributors.
At Robinson Fresh®, we work with suppliers, retailers, and foodservice providers to find more sustainable approaches and answers every day. Our work with Apeel™ Sciences is just one way Robinson Fresh brings potential solutions to industry providers.
Transforming existing products for greater sustainability
It’s important to evaluate how we produce, transport, and consume all kinds of food. In working with Apeel, the company’s mission is to reduce food waste by making longer-lasting produce a reality—creating value throughout the supply chain. Produce treated with Apeel’s plant-based protection lasts 2xs longer than produce without Apeel, which allows for a longer window of time to eat produce at the right ripening stage. Materials that exist in all fruits and vegetables are used to create a protective extra peel that seals moisture in and keeps oxygen out. This way, fewer products are thrown away throughout the supply chain.
Apeel estimates that together with Robinson Fresh, we’ve prevented 1.6 million limes from going to waste over the first year of our work together. As a result of this waste reduction, Apeel limes supplied by Robinson Fresh over the past year have helped avoid 110 mT CO2-eq of greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve 94 million liters [OR 25 million gallons] of water. This is equal to planting 1,900 trees and is enough water to fill 38 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Apeel utilized its third-party reviewed life cycle assessment methodology to quantify these environmental benefits.
Packaging innovations support food waste reductions
Although upstream product innovations are driving longer product lives, there are limitations when dealing with grown products like produce versus manufactured that do not have an expiration date so other innovations are needed to help fill the void.
Because all produce commodities ripen and spoil differently, packaging can often aid in slowing this process, ensuring food is used and not wasted. Stay fresh type packaging offers some protection for products, keeping them looking better longer on the shelf and giving shoppers more time to consume the products after purchasing.
Purchase at peak ripeness through merchandising
In addition to packaging, product merchandising can help advise at the point of sale the best time for consumption. Avocados are a perfect example of this—they can be purchased in a softer, more ripe state to eat immediately or in a harder state where they can ripen for a few days before being consumed. This example is one of the most challenging commodities for consumers to accurately purchase and use based on the fast ripening process.
To help solve the avocado ripening dilemma, Robinson Fresh recently developed a product called Daily ‘Dos. Instead of a consumer having to squeezing various pieces of produce in the store to get a sense of ripeness, Daily ‘Dos provides avocados in various stages of ripening, allowing the consumer to use these items when the avocados are at their peak ripeness—reducing food waste in consumers’ households.
Daily ‘Dos products also utilize a stay fresh packaging that extends the shelf life of the avocados by 21% while maintaining full visibility to the product. By giving consumers more access to sustainable produce, with the right flavor, delivered at the right time, we are helping reduce food waste downstream in supply chains as well.
The journey of food waste reduction
Food waste is a problem that will not disappear overnight. As members of the food and beverage industry, we believe it is our responsibility to research, identify, and implement new ways to help reduce food waste across the supply chain. As technology and science continue to evolve, our goal is to stay operationally flexible, implement new food innovations, and promote sustainability overall.
For more information about Robinson Fresh’s efforts in food waste and sustainability, visit RobinsonFresh.com/about-us/sustainability.com.