- Innovative firms and researchers are developing new ways to use food waste both as an ingredient and in food packaging, according to Ingredients Network.
- The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates one-third of all food produced globally is lost where it is grown or raised or wasted in retail, manufacturing and consumption.
- While preventing food waste is the best strategy, new uses for discarded items are a good way to limit negative economic and environmental impacts, FAO recommended. This includes growing mushrooms with coffee grounds, adding spent brewing grains to bread and pretzels and using tropical fruit waste to make biodegradable packaging.
Food waste is increasingly top of mind for environmentally conscious consumers. Ingredient suppliers can leverage this concern by adopting innovative methods to reduce unnecessary waste and educate consumers about what they are doing and how it is beneficial to them.
Retailers and food manufacturers can do this by including information about how food waste impacts the environment on packaging or in produce departments, farmers markets or other points of purchase. They also can engage in marketing and advertising campaigns that tout the merits of upcycled food and reach out to millennials and other younger consumers through social media or sponsoring events like concerts or festivals.
Some grocery chains are doing their part to reduce food waste. Whole Foods sorts food waste at its stores and Trader Joe’s donates items to food banks. Others sell co-called "ugly" produce to consumers at a discount. Walmart replaces cracked eggs in cartons to avoid tossing the entire package, a move that has saved millions of eggs.
Ingredient and packaging innovations have included converting fermentable sugars from juice processing waste into bioplastic beverage packaging, using wheat and barley to make biodegradable and compostable six-pack beer rings, taking mushroom waste and turning it into natural taste enhancers and reusing almond waste to produce sugar or beer. Tyson Food has created a protein crisp called ¡Yappah! that incorporates Tyson chicken trim with ingredients that would otherwise be left behind — vegetable puree and pulp from juicing and spent grain donated by beer giant Molson Coors.
Some large food companies also are entering the space. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Danone and Nestlé Waters have committed to adopting more biodegradable packaging while looking into their food waste streams for potential raw materials.
These efforts could be a smart marketing move that pays off financially. Research and Markets has projected the global biodegradable plastics market will be worth $65.5 billion by 2022. The food and beverage industries are expected to play a crucial role in driving that growth. A report issued this week by the Boston Consulting Group explains specific ways companies can tackle food loss and waste.
In addition to reducing their environmental footprint, companies have a financial reason to adopt such strategies. Shoppers are willing to pay more for products they see as premium, a status increasingly given to environmentally conscious and mission-based foods. Sustainable packaging — boxed water, wood-based bottles, edible containers made from mushrooms and seaweed — can be an innovative and lucrative way for brands to gain a health halo, refresh their image without having to reformulate their products and stand out in an increasingly competitive market.