Every year, billions of pounds—equating to hundreds of billions of dollars—of food is wasted; according to USDA, 30-40% of the U.S. food supply is wasted every year. This trend was enough for USDA, along with EPA, to announce a goal of 50% reduced food waste by the year 2030.
This food waste is increasingly becoming a concern for consumers, many of whom perceive climate change and other factors severely impact and threaten the global food system. A recent survey commissioned by Afresh Technologies of consumers in the San Francisco area highlighted the extent to which consumers care about, and will respond to, food waste at the retail level.
According to the survey, consumers are both undereducated yet already concerned about food waste. Nearly 60% of respondents said they are “extremely” or “very” concerned about food waste, with another 36% identifying as “somewhat” concerned. Additionally, more than half (52%) said they actively seek to avoid food waste when grocery shopping.
Yet despite this, the general public is also undereducated on just how pervasive the issue is. Only about 30% of consumers correctly identified the monetary amount of the country’s yearly food waste. More promising, however, was the fact that nearly 3 in 4 consumers (72%) said they would support a grocery store committed to reducing waste once these individuals learned of the financial toll food waste takes every year. Specifically, 63% of consumers said they would be more compelled to shop at a grocery store that was committed to reducing food waste; 52% would shop at such a store more frequently, and the same percentage would be likely to recommend that store to friends and family.
Food & Beverage Insider insight
The theme of sustainability is not a new one, but it has been invigorated over the last few years. Even before a global pandemic, extreme weather brought on by a changing climate forced not just consumers, but formulators, retailers and finished goods brands to rethink their own roles in the global food system. Today, consumers want to know the products they purchase are helping build a more sustainable future; part of that is eliminating waste at every level of the chain.
“The retailers we partner with are committed to big sustainability goals that include significant reductions in food waste, and this research demonstrates that consumers support stores that value sustainability and are taking positive actions to address the food waste issue,” said Matt Schwartz, co-founder and CEO of Afresh.
More than anything, consumers—especially younger consumers in the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts—want to feel they are part of a solution rather than part of a problem. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “About 6-8% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced if we stop wasting food. In the U.S. alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 32.6 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.”
While individuals can only do so much to reduce and reverse the current climate concerns, supporting businesses and brands that are focused on reducing waste and, therefore, their carbon footprint is an easy place for many consumers to start. Consider that, according to an IBM study in partnership with the National Retail Federation (NRF), 71% of consumers indicated they’d be willing to pay a premium—up to 37% more—for companies offering full transparency and traceability of their ingredients.
Food waste is a mammoth—but solvable—issue that brands and consumers alike have shown interest in tackling. Not only will doing so help businesses protect the planet and the global food system, but it can also clearly benefit their bottom line as well.