Cutting Food Waste: a Dream?

15 Sep 2014

Isn’t it frustrating for you, dear reader, as an executive, an important cog in the food industry, to see between 20 and 75% of what you stand for being wasted? The purpose of the food and beverage industry is to meet the needs of the consumer. It is both sad and hard to believe, in […]

Cutting Food Waste: a Dream?

Isn’t it frustrating for you, dear reader, as an executive, an important cog in the food industry, to see between 20 and 75% of what you stand for being wasted? The purpose of the food and beverage industry is to meet the needs of the consumer. It is both sad and hard to believe, in a world where we can communicate with each other globally quicker than the blinking of an eye, that we are unable to keep food products from going bad within a single country.

I realise that part of the problem is political and this is not the place to discuss those issues. However, a lot can already be achieved by using and developing the means we already have and by adding a significant portion of common sense.

I talked at a conference this summer with farmers about their aims and purposes. The role of a farmer is to grow the food to feed the world. The role of the food industry is to bring this food to the consumer. Coming shortly after the interpack show, I guess packaging was foremost in my mind. I also recalled the words of Robert van Otterdijk of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization: “Most food losses occur at production level, as a result of underdeveloped production, conservation and packaging, as well as inadequate storage, transport and infrastructural facilities.”

Packaging has several functions. I guess the first and main role of a package is to protect its contents. A package should attract consumers, to help them choose this item out of several other similar ones. The outside of a package is a source of information, often very detailed, which makes it easier to make purchase decisions.

The package has to protect, attract and inform – but still the contents are more important.

Packaging waste goes beyond sustainability as being the hottest trend at the moment. It is often inadequate packaging that causes food and drink to spoil before they reach the consumer. It is true, even today, that there is enough food in the world to feed the population. Unfortunately, large amounts (over 60%!) are wasted due to poor packaging and transportation

One of the calls behind sustainability is to use as little packaging as possible. I would argue that it is more sustainable to use as much packaging as necessary. Well-packaged goods are safer, more hygenic and often more practical than loose products. Better packages preserve foods longer, so they will reach hungry mouths in a suitable condition. In short, packaging has a significant role to play in preventing starvation and malnutrition.

Do you know the strange thing about all this? If we waste less food, we will save money and protect the environment. There are economic advantages since there are fewer wasted packages, sustainable advantages since resources will go further and humanitarian advantages since there will be more food to go round. That’s what I call a win-win-win situation!

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