Consumer education a critical strategy in food waste reduction efforts

Dive Brief:

  • Representatives of the food industry presented testimony before the House Agriculture Committee this week regarding potential solutions for the country's challenges in reducing food waste.
  • Meghan Stasz, senior director of sustainability for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, noted that food manufacturers had already made progress in reducing food waste in operations, including the founding of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance in 2011.
  • Stasz said that manufacturers still have a role to play. Though 44% of food waste occurs at the consumer level, manufacturers can educate and assist consumers in food choices and encourage waste reduction habits. Standardized date labeling is one option, but it is just one of several ways to handle the food waste problem, she said.

Dive Insight:

The estimated annual benefit of adopting a standard date labeling system is about $1.82 billion, according to data from ReFED. In terms of generating annual benefits, standard date labeling is second only to consumer education, at $2.66 billion, ReFED estimated.

Companies like General Mills and Nestle have already voiced support for standardized date labeling. But consumer education offers another opportunity for manufacturers to play a role in reducing food waste where it is most prevalent: at the consumer level.

Recently, several companies have announced fiscal support and/or involvement in various research initiatives, such as Dannon's research into the microbiome or the Silk brand's efforts (WhiteWave) to promote plant-based foods as solutions for environmental sustainability, transparency, and health and wellness.

Like these research endeavors, manufacturers can also involve themselves in educational efforts for consumers. This could include funding initiatives directed at consumer education about best practices for food storage or composting; running marketing or promotional campaigns to encourage food donations; or printing food waste-related tips and educational messages on packaging.

Educational outreach efforts by manufacturers could be key in solving the biggest problem in food waste.

Filed Under: Manufacturing Sustainability
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