Europe’s war on waste is growing in momentum. On the continent, we are throwing away 100 million tonnes of food every year and the food we waste the most is fresh fruit and vegetables.
To stem the flow, campaigners are calling for more laws to minimise waste. Already this year, France became the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food. In Italy, they’ve passed new laws to encourage all supermarkets to give unsold food to charity, while a charity in Denmark has opened the country’s first-ever surplus food supermarket, Wefood.
To tackle the root cause of the problem, suppliers need to also understand why fresh food is going to waste. Is it a result of poor forecasting? Short shelf life? Or were people not just interested in your product? Another factor to help halt our growing food waste is predicting customers’ behaviour.
Right now the trend for healthier eating means consumers are moving away from processed foods and instead want to take home the newest and freshest produce on the shelves.
But the curse of strict sell-by dates means supermarkets are throwing away perfectly good food as customers opt for the freshest produce. How many of us are guilty of rummaging at the back to get the freshest loaf of bread, or lifting up the next crate of carrots to find the package with the longest sell by date?
By allowing customers to be selective on the sell-by date, food suppliers are at risk of creating unnecessary waste. If you are constantly replenishing fresh food, then the fresh food with the shortest sell-by-date will never sell.
Displaying an overabundance of fresh produce can be counterproductive for many supermarkets. It’s a common tactic to give customers a feeling of richness and choice, but it’s also encouraging waste. Retailers need to be clever in how they integrate demand planning and forecasting so that stocks can be replenished in real time to encourage customers away from buying ‘Last in, first out’ to a more sustainable ‘First in, first out’.
Food waste represents a massive cost to industry. For every product a retailer sells at £1 – they might make 20p. But for every product thrown away, they lose £1 and therefore have to sell five more products just to make up for that £1 just lost. So consider how that cost can grow exponentially if you are dumping waste into a wheelie bin every night?
According to food and grocery research charity IGD, the current total financial cost of managing most food waste is likely to fall in-between £50-£100 per tonne, depending on the level of waste treatment that is required. By using demand planning and accurate forecasting, food suppliers can start integrating solutions into their supply chain to increase profitability and help sustainability by minimising waste.