BY MARIE STAFFORD,
EUROPEAN DIRECTOR, JWT INNOVATION GROUP
Imagine a world with no waste. It simply no longer exists. No dustbins. No landfill. Nothing.
It’s not easy from where we stand today. Waste is a uniquely human concept in which food plays a major part. The EU has said its member states generate almost 90 million tonnes of food waste per year.
Industry has pledged significant efforts to tackle the issue: the Consumer Goods Forum’s Food Waste Resolution bids to cut food waste in half by 2025. Laws have also been passed in France and recently Italy to address the problem, but we’re clearly still a long way from a no-waste utopia.
The issue of food waste is one that resonates strongly with people. Research for JWT’s food and drink futures report found that almost two-thirds of UK millennials would happily pay more for products that had been recycled or re-used materials. Consumers will look to companies and brands, not just to shoulder some of the burden, but also to make their lives easier through providing guilt-free choices.
Making food waste history will be a collaborative effort, but businesses can really take the lead and inspire action. Here are just some of the ways companies are already using creativity and innovation to tackle food waste.
Rescuing produce from the journey to landfill
Companies are turning trash into treasure by championing discarded or unwanted ingredients.
Toast Pale Ale is the UK’s first beer brewed using surplus bread from bakeries and delis which would otherwise be destined for landfill. Profits from sales of the beer are donated to food waste campaigning charity Feedback.
In a similar vein, Hawkes gathers unwanted windfall apples to help produce its Urban Orchard bottled craft cider. Apple donors are rewarded in bottles of cider, and the brand’s ultimate aim is that no apple should go to waste.
But it’s not just small scale producers getting in on the act: Yeo Valley is working on its second Left-Yeovers yoghurt variety, made with ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste. Their first effort, made with figs, blood orange juice and carrot puree raised funds for food waste charity Fareshare.
Imagining a new lease of life for food byproducts
JWT’s Future 100 report called 2016 as a big year for brands who turn byproducts into something new.
New Zealand brewer DB Export won a Cannes Outdoor Grand Prix for its Brewtroleum project, which transformed leftover yeast into a viable biofuel.
They’re not the only company collaborating with the automotive sector. Jose Cuervo has been working with Ford to develop sustainable bioplastic materials derived from agave plants. The project follows a similar endeavour by Heinz based on tomato fibres.
Meanwhile German design firm Kaffeeform is one of a number of companies looking at ways to repurpose used coffee grounds, imaginatively turning them into coffee cups and saucers.
And in the USA, Calfornian start-up Regrained collects the spent grain discarded by beer brewers and turns it into tasty varieties of granola bar.
Driving awareness and upskilling consumers
A number of brands are helping to educate consumers in ways to drive down waste in the home.
Unilever and environmental charity Hubbub have launched an initiative entitled A joint ambition for a Zero Food Waste Britain, which aims in part to drive consumer awareness of the value of food as well as boost their skills and knowledge. Their first campaign, entitled #TravellersCheck, targeted holidaymakers in the UK, who throw away £0.5 billion worth of edible food before their travels, and encouraged cooking, gifting or freezing the leftover fridge items instead.
Home retailer Ikea launched its Dining Club concept in London’s Shoreditch this September. Alongside DIY cooking experiences, the event also played host to a series of Food for Thought workshops including Love Food, Hate Waste which aimed to help people cook and eat with waste front of mind.
British retailer Sainsbury’s is investing £10 million over five years to help consumers address food waste through their ‘Waste Less, Save More’ campaign, which has among its aims a bid to help people store food more effectively to prolong freshness, as well as provide clever ways to use up leftover food items.
Salvage Culture Pioneers
Elevating the issue and delivering helpful behaviour nudges
Upscale eateries and bars have been doing their bit to drive the food waste debate, shifting menus away from à la carte dining, popularising concepts like nose-to-tail eating and whole vegetable cooking and even creating special menus based on the ingredients we often discard, questioning what is, what isn’t waste.
US chef Dan Barber hosted the WastED popup event at his Blue Hill restaurant in 2015, which presented a daily menu based on salvaged ingredients such as skate wing cartilage, carrot tops, broken-shelled razor clams and day-old bread. Salvage Supperclub, a similar pop- up dining concept in San Francisco, even hosted its events this summer in a dumpster to drive the message home.
At London restaurant Duck & Waffle, this summer’s Urban Foraging vs Urban Decay cocktail menu was inspired by the very ingredients we would normally toss in the bin, such as burnt toast, avocado peel and coffee grounds.
Meanwhile supermarkets like Intermarch and Asda have both popularised wonky vegetables, and one Dutch farm is dedicating its production entirely to oddly-shaped varieties, set to be branded Bitter & Twisted.
Smart technology is helping to solve the food waste challenge
The proliferation of smartphones means that it’s easier than ever to connect people. Now a slew of clever consumer apps like LastMinuteSottoCasa from Italy, NFDWSTD from the Netherlands and OptiMiam in France are helping businesses promote their surplus produce for quick sale to shoppers in their neighbourhoods in real-time.
Along similar lines, a number of apps out of Scandinavia, including BuffetGo and ResQ, allow foodies to snap up restaurant leftovers at a discount at closing time.
For the hospitality industry, cloud technology platform Winnow is helping kitchens tackle waste by automatically measuring and tracking what they throw away, helping to optimise purchasing as well as providing a clear incentive to address the problem.
And finally, artificial intelligence is already helping manufacturers tackle waste at its root. Japan’s Weather Association is partnering with the food industry to use data streams from sales data, weather patterns and even social media comments to predict future food demand.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2017