3bl logo

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

The Key to Reducing Food Waste

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment

Food waste is a worldwide problem. Globally an estimated 30 to 50 percent (or 1.2 to 2 billion tons) of all food produced is wasted. Food waste is also an American problem. The average U.S. family throws away $1,500 worth of edible food every year, yet one in six Americans struggles with food insecurity. In the U.S. almost 40 percent of all food grown and processed is never eaten, but thrown into the trash, adding up to $180 billion a year.

A new report by BBMG titled “Waste Not, Want Not” looks at the problem. The report highlights businesses with food waste reduction initiatives ranging from donations to food banks, composting, converting food waste to energy, and branding unappealing looking produce:

  • BJ’s Wholesale Club partners with Feeding America to donate over 20 million pounds of food a year, about 16.7 million meals.

  • The Kroger Recovery System processes food waste from Ralphs and Food4Less grocery stores in California and Nevada, turning an estimated 55,000 tons of organic food waste into renewable energy a year, enough to offset over 20 percent of a distribution center’s energy needs.

  • TGI Friday’s has offered smaller portions to its customers since 2007.

  • The French supermarket chain, Intermarché found a way to brand misshapen fruits and vegetables to appeal to consumers and that has inspired other retailers to market produce that usually is rejected. The Intermarché campaign increased traffic by 24 percent and leading to the selling out of all stocks of fruits and vegetables.

Aspirationals and food waste reduction

The report looks at a group of consumers termed aspirationals. BBMG and GlobeScan first discovered aspirationals during a global study of 21,000 consumers in 2013. There are about two billion aspirationals globally, mainly comprised of Generation Xers and Millennials. Aspirationals care deeply about social and environmental values as consumers BBMG labels “dark green” but they love to shop. They care about price, quality, and style, or as the report describes them, “they prize value and values.” Aspirational consumers are increasing. In 2014, they represent 38 percent of the global population, up from 36 percent in 2013.

BBMG found by conducting polls that aspirationals really do care as much about the values of a company as they do about shopping. Nine out of 10 (93 percent) of them said “shopping for new things excites me." Half of them said they “trust global companies to act in the best interest of society." Most (90 percent) aspirationals said they encourage people to buy from socially and environmentally responsible companies compared to 59 percent of all consumers. They are willing to pay more for socially and environmentally responsible products.

Most aspirationals (95 percent) also said they think they need to consume less to preserve the environment. When asked what they thought about food waste, BBMG found that 70 percent of aspirationals are motivated by money although they have “deep empathy” for the issues surrounding food waste. They also found that being wasteful is not perceived by aspirationals as a positive character trait.

The report concludes that aspirationals hold the keys to “scaling sustainable consumption” because of their love of shopping combined with their desire to “do more with less.” Aspirationals expect brands to be responsible and reward brands that practice responsibility. A new narrative is needed on food waste that celebrates food while encouraging consumers to save money by not wasting food. That sort of campaign would appeal to aspirationals who in turn would influence those around them.

Image credit: Michael Coghlan

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman

More stories from Energy & Environment