Interventions at the production end of the supply chain have economic and environmental benefits but the world is unlikely to see food brands encouraging consumers to buy less.
The world has a problem with food waste laid bare, according to McKinsey, 33% – 40% of the world’s food is lost or wasted every year. This in turn means that a quarter of the world’s freshwater supply is wasted every year producing food that is wasted or lost and greenhouse gas emissions from food loss and waste contribute 8% of the global total.
The UN sustainable development targets aim to halve food loss and waste by 2030 but countries and companies are reportedly lagging behind where they should be. All but 5% of the 50 largest food companies have set specific targets on food loss and waste with 40% setting a baseline and are measuring and reporting on their targets. Companies can utilise digital technologies and by using AI technology IKEA became the first of the 50 global companies to halve its food waste in 2022 in its 400 in-store restaurants. Implementation of the tool resulted in savings of 36,000t CO2e and US$37m, and involved more than technology with IKEA hiring new employees to ensure efforts were spread across operations.
Experts have warned that food waste is sometimes just shifted from one part of the food chain to another, which provides an opportunity for collaboration across the entire supply chain. The focus from companies seems to be on reducing food loss and waste, rather than preventing it in the first place. Food companies redistributing food are addressing social and environmental concerns, however, redistribution is not a solution to over-production and stocking.