Food waste is a serious concern in the United States. In fact, about one-third of all food produced in the U.S. every year goes uneaten. Not only is this bad for the environment, it’s a huge waste of time and money for companies across the country. Does your brand waste food? It’s easy to do, so we’re here to shed light on simple ways to reduce food waste.
Food waste in the United States
The USDA identifies food waste as an edible item that goes unconsumed, whether it’s waste made by consumers or food discarded by retailers due to color or appearance. Understanding the magnitude of food waste is the key to addressing it. Did you know that 97 percent of food waste is buried in landfills? Much of that food could be recycled, donated, or put to other uses. Meanwhile, 49 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food.
Additionally, 19 percent of wasted food comprises vegetables, while fruits make up another 13.9 percent. And 45 percent of all fruits and vegetables produced go unconsumed. Wasted food doesn’t just occur with customers or retail locations; it takes place throughout the supply chain. Farms, processors, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, consumers—everyone’s guilty of it. With an issue this prevalent, it’s time to find ways to limit food waste and more effectively use our resources.
Food waste reduction
Everyone can help reduce food waste, especially consumer brands and retailers. The Food Recovery Hierarchy outlines simple steps companies and individuals can take to limit their wasted product:
- Source reduction. By conducting a food audit or comparing purchasing inventory with customer ordering, companies can individually evaluate how much food they waste. If you’re purchasing and creating too much product, a food audit can help you adjust ordering and inventory to eliminate waste.
- Feed hungry people. Every company or brand inevitably orders or creates too much food, so finding suitable places to donate it is key. Food that’s suitable for human consumption will quickly be used at soup kitchens, while food that’s been preserved but not used yet can go to food banks.
- Feed animals. Not all food is suitable for people to eat, but farmers are always on the hunt for unused food materials for their livestock. Donating food scraps saves farmers money while benefiting companies by limiting the amount of garbage they produce.
- Industrial uses. Interest in biofuel and bioproducts from wasted food is on the rise. Through unconventional uses, unused food can help power machines, like your car or generator. Biodiesel can be created from unused oils and fats in food, while liquid fat and solid meat can be rendered for use in soap and cosmetics.
- Composting. If food can’t be consumed or used for energy, it should be composted. Some products have inedible parts, and the only solution is composting. If food has gone bad or is inconsumable, composting turns it into nutrient rich soil for use in future food production.
- Landfill/incineration. As a last resort, food waste can be put in a landfill. This should only happen when all other methods can’t be pursued. As we’ve stated, 97 percent of food waste currently ends up landfills. While much of that may come from consumers, companies and brands can do their part to decrease that number.
Next steps in food waste
While consumers typically tip the food waste scale by throwing away 15 to 25 percent of the food they purchase, brands can make a huge difference in limiting wasted food material. Wasted food is wasted money, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to decrease that amount. Excess food or edible food byproducts are a resource for your brand to use. Unconventional approaches can also reduce waste, like using preserved food instead of fresh products.
By partnering with farms and suppliers like Mercer who provide safely preserved fruits and vegetables, brands can reduce the amount of food they waste. Freeze-dried products have an extended shelf life, meaning less food is thrown out. Shelf stable, freeze-dried ingredients work as a form of extract to develop or intensify flavors in baked goods, beverages, and emergency kits, without adding unnatural concentrates or perishable items to your products.
With Mercer’s improved technology and scientific testing, we’re pushing the boundaries of freeze-dried food to improve versatility and limit waste. For more information on our freeze-drying process, connect with us directly or get in touch via Facebook or LinkedIn.