There is an increasing pressure to reduce the level of food waste before it even reaches the table. It's believed that 1.9 million tonnes of foodstuff are dumped each year in the UK alone. This is considered to be not just an economic imperative but also a social and ethical dilemma. While in some parts of the world people starve, in others vast amounts of perfectly edible food are dumped or neglected to the point of no return.
How can organisations in the food industry, from producers to retailers, make a positive difference?
Using local suppliers
One of the more successful measures employed so far has been to support more local producers in the areas around supermarkets, which helps to reduce transport emissions. It also provided food retailers with a competitive advantage, as consumers are now demanding "less travelled" food in stores that is fresher, and therefore sourced more locally.
Technology in logistics and transport
Fortunately, technology is increasingly providing solutions for the swift and effective movement of foodstuffs, including greater automation. For example, it's now possible to put sensors even within individual cases, as well as lorries, to monitor the status of their contents and the temperature. These techniques enable logistics and transport teams to move food around with greater control, avoids previous issues with delayed or misplaced lorries having to dump their contents and minimise incorrect temperature levels that can spoil the goods.
Assessing the hub network and create a more intuitive logistics network, will provide the ability to sort and split consignments, the sending of required and accurate quantities to their required destination. By having a strategic hub network can also help reduce lead times and transport costs in the long run.
Change perception of what is acceptable
Many have been horrified by recent reports; a report from the University of Edinburgh, suggests that over 50 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables or around a third of the total produce grown in Europe, are discarded annually as they are believed to be 'too ugly to sell’.
But this is not just due to the supermarkets wanting perfect displays or consumers perception of what is edible fruit and veg - the Government has also imposed strict regulations on the shape and size of produce. Companies in the industry should work together to encourage a wider acceptance of the way fruit and veg appear in its natural form and find ways of using the produce that is 'too ugly to sell'.
Education and consumers
Taking measures to provide better food education and information includes providing the general public with more information on creative uses or recipes for leftovers which could help reduce what goes in the bin. It could also include providing children more opportunities to learn about the origins of their food and even basic cooking skills.
The above point also hinges on clearer food labelling too, and a greater understanding of food "best before" dates and other information. Manufacturers and retailers can create sustainable and easy to understand systems to show ingredients and shelf life without encouraging consumers to dump foodstuffs that could potentially still be viable.
New packaging concepts
Intelligent packaging is also an important way forward. However, it represents a massive challenge to food companies. There is increasing pressure to minimise product wrappings and containers – especially plastic – but packaging plays a massive role in keeping food products fresh enough to sell.
Finding a sustainable solution is vital.
Better resource management
From food producers, through to manufacturers and logistics firms, right to the retailers, there is one step forward that can help them all to combat food waste. It involves utilising the transparency and control offered by having connected and data-rich technology. Well configured Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software provides limitless possibilities to precisely manage the collection, storage and onward movement of foodstuffs.
For details of how WinMan ERP software can better support those working in the food industry in increasing efficiency in the supply chain, eliminating waste and creating more opportunities for productivity and profitability, contact us today.