March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.1 This year’s theme is Go Further with Food. That can mean different things to different people. For some, it may mean jump-starting your day with a healthy breakfast, fueling your body right for peak performance, or planning your meals in advance to make smart choices during the week when you are crunched for time. But one area that is often overlooked is food waste. In the U.S., food waste is estimated at between 30% and 40% of the food supply.2 And while the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics brings this topic to our attention in March, it’s a worthy consideration leading into April’s Earth Month and well beyond.
As sustainability and food waste continue to permeate consumer consciousness, SPINS is tracking trends in the marketplace that help reduce food waste. Here we review a few prominent organizations as well as emerging brands that are helping to fight systemic food waste in unique ways.
The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is a not-for-profit environmental advocacy group with a website called SaveTheFood.com that gives consumers tips on how to buy, store, and use fresh produce in order to minimize waste. Amazon has equipped Alexa to answer these questions, as well. Companies like Imperfect Produce offer a discounted home delivery service for produce that would otherwise be rejected by retailers for cosmetic reasons. Boston-based Spoiler Alert company acts as the middleman and helps grocery stores, large food manufacturers, distributors, and grocery retailers identify and access outlets that recover value from unsold inventory before it goes to waste. Many retailers have been doing this on their own, providing unsold inventory to food banks, but new developments in the tech sector offer improved connectivity and efficiency in the process to benefit both sides of the exchange.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI)2 have joined together in an industry-wide effort to streamline and standardize the wording on package labels to help minimize consumer confusion. This is a voluntary program that encourages retailers and manufacturers to adopt common wording by the summer of 2018. The goal is to simplify the numerous labeling options, like best by, use by, sell by, enjoy by, and display until down to two options. Best by would then be used by manufacturers to assure quality of the product’s taste, texture, and other sensory attributes, while use by would indicate food safety or material/nutrient degradation over time.
Brands On Board
Additionally, more and more manufacturer brands are bringing creative ideas to the business of making food by upcycling would-be waste into promising new products. Our 2018 Trend Predictions highlighted a few brands whose by-product products caught our eye early on, and the list of innovations keeps growing. Here are three examples the SPINS team enjoyed at this year’s Natural Products Expo West:
- Barnana, a B-Corp certified company that upcycles imperfect bananas and turns them into snacks, has recently added plantain chips to its offering for a savory dimension.
- Vermont-based maple syrup maker Runamok shares resources with breweries and distilleries to create barrel-aged and infused maple syrups, trading barrels and as well as other by-products (such as cardamom mash) to impart unique flavors in a variety of finished products.
- Sustainable salad-greens company Organicgirl snagged the coveted NEXTY award for Best New Organic Beverage, offering new green drinks and teas that incorporate a full pound of juiced romaine lettuce. The value-added beverages provide another avenue to leverage nutrition of highly perishable produce despite any aesthetic shortcomings.
Fighting Food Waste in Foodservice
Lastly, we are seeing more restaurants increase their efforts to reduce waste. Whether it’s as simple as using kitchen scraps in beverages or switching to smaller plates and portions that offer patrons a serving they can and should actually consume in one sitting – these are promising steps. With all these industries working toward minimizing food waste and growing consumer action and awareness, we can hope to help move the needle and work toward the joint USDA/EPA Food Waste Challenge of cutting food waste by 50% by 2030.3
- National Nutrition Month. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2018, from http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/national-nutrition-month
- (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2018, from https://www.fmi.org/industry-topics/labeling/product-code-dating
- A Call to Action by Stakeholders: United States Food Loss & Waste 2030 Reduction Goal. (2017, March 21). Retrieved February 14, 2018, from https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/call-action-stakeholders-united-states-food-loss-waste-2030-reduction