It’s estimated that almost two million tonnes of food is wasted in the grocery supply chain every year. A study last year by WRAP, the food waste charity, calculated that action to increase prevention of waste could save businesses £300 million a year.
Of course, it’s not just the value of the food, there is also a substantial logistics cost involved in dealing with all this waste so finding solutions can have a significant impact on the supply chain.
There are a number of problem areas, including the fact that people generally don’t want to buy mis-shapen produce. We have all seen celebrity chefs campaigning to get the rest of us to buy wonky vegetables.
It’s all very politically correct, and, I suspect, almost totally futile.
Faced with a choice between a wonky potato and a perfectly shaped one, which would you choose?
The logical answer is that the wonky vegetable will be harder to peel and will probably create more waste, so the perfectly shaped one must be the better choice for the consumer.
But there is another approach – exemplified by Tesco’s carrot spaghetti and cauliflower couscous.
The retailer has recognised that the growing demand for prepared foods – fresh ready meals, snack and side dishes – could also provide an opportunity to make use of produce that would go to rot otherwise.
Consumers don’t seem concerned that their carrot spaghetti is made with wonky carrots, or that their cauliflower couscous came from cauliflowers that were too small to sell on their own.
Turning goods that people don’t want to buy into products that they do is a small innovation, but it exemplifies the kind of thinking needed to tackle the waste problem. It certainly has a much better chance of success that simply lecturing consumers.