New research published this morning claims there is now a “compelling business case” for foodservice operators serving hospitals, schools, sports arenas and other facilities to reduce food waste.
For every $1 (75p) that caterers invest in programmes to curb food waste, they save more than $6 (£4.50) on average in operating costs, according to a study by Champions 12.3, a coalition of nearly 40 leaders across government, business and civil society dedicated to halving per capita global food waste by 2030.
The first-of-its kind industry analysis, titled ‘The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Catering’, examined financial cost and benefit data for 86 sites across six countries.
Within one year, the sites had reduced food waste by 36% on average, and 64% had recouped their investment.
These foodservice operators made a range of investments in food waste reduction programmes, including purchasing smart scales or similar technology to measure their food waste, training staff in measurement and techniques to reduce waste, and redesigning menus.
A full 79% of sites were able to keep their total investment in food waste reduction below $10,000 (£75,000).
The financial returns come from reducing purchase costs by buying less food, increasing revenue from new menu items developed from unsold food or those once considered “scraps” and reduced waste management costs.
“Taking action across the food industry is vital if we are to halve global food waste by 2030,” stated Dave Lewis, group chief executive of Tesco and Chair of Champions 12.3. “As chair of Champions 12.3, I’m delighted to be able to share today’s report, which clearly shows that reducing food waste in the catering sector isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.”
Mike Hanson, head of sustainable business for BaxterStorey, one of the UK’s largest caterers, said his company began segregating, weighing and reporting its food waste four years ago through its own online accounts portal.
“We split the waste into production waste, spoilage waste and plate waste and alongside that ran our in-house Green Flash training modules. We have seen some fantastic results with more than 40% reduction in waste. The ROI is far reaching and not just financial in terms of cost of food; we have also seen huge savings in waste disposal and energy costs for our clients, our margins have improved and we have seen a massive reduction in carbon and other environmental impacts.”
One-third of all food produced in the world goes uneaten, leading to tremendous economic, social and environmental impacts. Food loss and waste accounts for $940 billion (£710 billion) in economic losses and 8%of global greenhouse gas emissions annually. At the same time, more than 800 million people are chronically undernourished.
“This report has real-world lessons that can be applied in company kitchens today,” said Liz Goodwin, senior fellow and director, food loss and waste at World Resources Institute. “The catering industry has been a leader in piloting creative solutions for reducing pre-consumer food waste. The task now is to expand the pilots and for those in the industry to learn from what others have seen success doing. This is critical for companies to realise the financial benefits for themselves and contribute to the global effort to halve food waste.”
The report, co-authored by WRAP and WRI, recommends catering managers take a “target, measure, act” approach to reduce the amount of food wasted from their kitchens.
It outlines five actions institutional caterers should take, based on interviews with those who have implemented successful food waste reduction programmes:
- Measure the amount of food being wasted to know where to prioritise efforts.
- Engage staff.
- Start small and get creative.
- Reduce overproduction.
- Re-purpose excess food.