Key Factors Driving Food Waste

It has been estimated that 90 million tons of food is wasted in UK and about a third of the food for human consumption is wasted globally. In fact, food waste in industrialised country is as high as in developing countries.

  • In developing countries, over 40 percent of food loss occurs after harvest and during the processing
  • In industrialised countries, over 40 percent of food waste happens at retail and consumer level.

In a nutshell, food is wasted throughout the whole food chain process-from farmers to consumers.

From the manufacturing and brand's perspective, research shows that consumer's knowledge and understanding about how to store and use their food is likely to contribute to food waste. Let us find the key factors responsible for food waste.


Food packet size

Restricted availability of smaller food pack size is a big issue for a number of products. Survey shows that the products for which consumers appear to have more limited choice of pack size includes bread rolls, bread, pasta sauce, bacon and ham. On the contrary, a fairly wide range of pack sizes of bagged salad are available in the store. Consumer demands smaller pack sizes on the market, with the majority of them stating that most of the ‘not so necessary' product packs for daily needs are too large. Moreover, smaller pack size are more expensive for a few particular products which may results in some households buying larger packs than required, which may results in food waste.

Lack of proper storage information

Recently, Crowdology's survey found lack of food storage instructions on the packaging. Although there are different content of guidance given on some packs. Survey found the following reasons

  • The inconsistency of information regarding where food packs should be stored is an important factor behind food waste. For instance, many products are required to store in a dark, cool place or in the fridge or need airtight container, away from strong odors.
  • The inconsistency regarding the recommended fridge temperature guidance especially for products like yogurt and cheese
  • Lack of information when it comes to advice on how long packs should be stored after opening for products like breads, meats sauces or cheese and butter
  • Often, food packs fail to provide advice that could help consumers keep content fresh for longer. It is rare for packs of meat, cheese, sausages to carry advice on storing the products in an airtight container once they are opened.

How long to freeze?

Research and Survey shows that food waste problems is also due to

  • Frequent failing to advice consumers on how long to freeze a product before deteriorating in quality on the packaging. This is particularly true for products like milk. Pasta sauces, or store-baked breads. In addition, freezing instructions are also rare on yogurt and cheese
  • Also the proportion of food packs giving defrosting guidance varied across most of the products surveyed.

Improper Packaging style

It is found that many products are sold in re-closable packaging including chicken, bread rolls, ham, cheese or whole bread.

In adequate cooking instructions

  • Survey found that only two-fifth of the products carried some sort of cooking instructions while others have no guidance
  • A significant percentage of products fail to offer the right portion sizing guidance. These include, potatoes, onions, microwavable rice or pastas, ready meals or bagged salads
  • Very few products carry advice on freezing leftovers, storing or re-heating.

Product expiry date marks

  • Many supermarket's own brand products carry ‘ display until' dates and a few other products carry ‘sell-by' dates along ‘best before' or ‘use by' dates. This especially prevalent on products like potatoes, milks, carrots and breads. The unreliable use of ‘display until' dates raises questions regarding how important they may be for retailers
  • Some packs such as cheese, frozen chicken, mayonnaise and frozen ready meals that have ‘best before' date stated that, once the product is opened, the product should be consumed within ‘x' days and by date shown. This part of the information mostly confuse the consumers as they usually open the pack on the ‘best before' date and feel that they have to use it all that day.

Key findings from consumers

When used focus groups for the survey, it uncovered the widespread denial among consumers about how much they waste food. However, when they were prompted to think about their habits in more details, they admit to throwing away a large number of items for following reasons

  • Poor planning/buying management
  • Improper personal choice and lifestyle
  • Retailers influencing consumers to buy too much
  • Lack of skills.

As we see surveys are important to gain a better understanding of consumer attitude to food waste and the values that underpin them.

Information shared by Crowdology.

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