Companies Focus on Food Waste (Consumers Already Are)
Even before COVID-19, there was growing awareness among sustainability-minded consumers about the topic of food waste as a potential environmental issue ranked high among others (such as packaging waste and global warming). During the onset of the pandemic, the cultural focus on food waste in the home sharpened, evidenced in tracking studies conducted by The Hartman Group for FMI — The Food Industry Association in Spring 2020. This research found that Americans were developing new cooking habits, among which included beliefs that 36% thought they’d be more successful in avoiding food waste than prior to the pandemic. When asked to look forward, in the same research 51% said they even imagined themselves in a COVID-free future as “wasting less food.”
As if in response, the Washington Post recently reported that nearly 200 of the world’s largest food suppliers and food retailers were pledging to cut their food waste and have joined the 10x20x30 Initiative. Companies participating in the Initiative will create annual reports about their food loss and are encouraged to post the results on the Food Waste Atlas website to promote transparency and sharing.
Worldwide, food that is unharvested or disposed of at some point in the supply chain amounts to 30% of all food produced, according to data from the United Nations.
Driven by changes seen both in their own lives and in their communities, consumers are increasingly thinking about how food waste occurs throughout the product lifecycle: For them, the pandemic has illuminated the interconnectedness of the food supply chain, with crippling effects visible not only among shuttered businesses, but within a wider, interdependent network of consumers, farmers, and other institutions.
COVID-19 has also put a spotlight on food waste at home. The question “Will my family actually use this item?” has taken on greater meaning as consumers have been forced to adapt to both fewer, constrained sourcing routines and more intentional strategies about when and how they will use items.
As consumers continue to raise expectations for products and companies to do better, they are primed to more greatly value product attributes, practices and narratives that shed light on corporate initiatives relating to responsible resource use.
In terms of related research on changing food sourcing behaviors, our new report, Food Sourcing in America, July/August 2020 examines what the long-term impact of COVID-19 has been on grocery shopping and food sourcing and tracks how consumer perceptions, needs, habits, and relationships with food retailers are evolving. Key topic areas of study in the report include: Shifts in Context, Shifts in Food Sourcing; Food Shopping in a Pandemic; The Anatomy of a Grocery Trip; Channel Engagement and Performance; Channel and Retailer Profiles; Online Shopping; The Rise of Private Label; Restaurant Sourcing in a Pandemic; and Implications and Recommendations. More information is available here.