Dear Food Retailer... you need to read this
As food retailers today, do we do what's done, OR what must be done? The food industry of our western society has over the years contributed to our current throwaway culture, that has grown out of control worldwide. We have reached a crisis point on every level of our food system. Consumers have become so reliant upon convenience, and food retailers so addicted to meeting consumer demands that everything else has become second priority. The collective frustration felt worldwide has resulted in some amazing initiatives and solutions, but to get on top of this problem we need the next generation of conscious leaders to make such positive changes the new norm. If we could reach the masses and inspire big industry leaders we could revolutionise the whole food system!
There are currently one billion people starving today, yet here we are, wasting over one third of all the food worldwide due to strict supermarket standards and poor consumer behaviour. The food we waste could end world hunger three times over, yet it continues day after day. If that wasn't enough we also continue to excessively package our food, even through we see our world drowing in plastic before our eyes. Our lack of respect for our planets food reserves are causing whole eco systems to collapse, so at what point do we say, enough is enough? At what point do we realise that our modern day food culture is a crime against humanity.
in nature there is no such thing as waste, waste a human concept
Every decision not made in response to our planets urgent plea, is one step closer to collapse. In business terms, that is one step closer to becoming completly obsolete. These highly visible problems has caused public outrage world wide. This is a clear indication that too little has been done, a little too late.
A world in crisis...
The combined effect of the all the actions taken everyday, have resulted in major improvements. Many organisations and even countries have responded with radical laws. This is exactly what we need to see more of. As a food retailer you have the power make a significant impact. What would it take to choose sustainable brands and start stocking more sustainably packaged items? As an industry leader would you have the courage to raise your voice and request a change where necessary? Anything from farming practises and transportation, to packaging and disposal, we must rethink everything! One who makes a profit from selling food, have the obligation to make sure we do not deplete our resources by consuming faster than we can replenish. That includes supporting sustainable food choices, and taking greater responsibility for any waste generated as a result of doing business. In other words, we need to move towards a circular economy where there is no such thing as waste, because sustainability is no longer a trend, it is a business imperative.
11% of our global population are starving
Our current food waste could eliminate world hunger 3 x over
40% of bananas as discarded before they reach our stores
25% of FOOD PURCHASED ends up in the bin
40% of all food produce ends up wasted
We need 2 planets to meet Our current consumption demand
While alternative food stores are popping up everywhere, majority of people still buy their food through supermarkets and major food retailers. This is because our deeply engrained habits will take time to change, unless changing them becomes our only option... then it's easy! Retailers, you can make it easy. Start collaborating with suppliers as well as each other, involve the community and educate the consumers. By interacting with each other, there will soon be no problem that cannot be solved. Lets start behaving like leaders.
This next section is separated into two parts; food waste and plastic waste. Here are some ideas that has helped reduced food waste from retailers and fridges all over the world inspired by Selena Juul's Stop Wasting Food movement (Stop Spild Af Mad) Denmark.
HOW TO MINIMISE FOOD WASTE
- Support local farmers and brands to avoid unnecessary transport costs.
- Always go for organic alternatives first, attempt to phase out harmful toxins from the food chain.
- Remove size / look regulation from grower / supplier.
- Introduce all shapes and sizes of fruit and vegetables and encourage people to buy it, at a discount if necessary.
- Encourage people to buy single bananas as they often get left behind and wasted.
- Stop selling cut fruit in plastic wrap.
- Encourage people to buy less
- Inform people how to store fresh produce to help ripen or avoid going off too early.
- Sell brown and spotted bananas at discount price and inform people what they could make with it and how much they can save.
- Inform people on how much food is wasted and how to best use up leftover food.
- Send unsold (expired and edible) food to feed people in need, and the rest to farm animals and local composting facilities.
- Encourage people to reduce their food waste at home by using social media competitions of empty plates, leftover recipes or in store pledges.
- Engage more with customers on social media by showing how much you progress and improve your store everyday.
- Sponsor a community fridge so people can easily donate to those in need.
- Collaborate with local community and schools for more ideas.
How to minimise plastic waste
Nature has amazing packaging and for many products no packaging is needed. Manufacturers may still insist on packaging, but it is time send a clear message that we need to see more sustainable packaging on the shelves. Food retailers normally have huge bargaining power, lets put that to good use. The requests for more sustainable products will only increase as long as the problem with waste still exist. Here are some ideas of how to minimise plastic waste.
- Sell as much as possible in bulk and encourage suppliers to collaborate on in-store bulk food system.
- Offer paper bags for in-store bakery bread.
- Remove all plastic packaging from fruit and vegetables.
- Encourage people to bring their own containers for deli items.
- Remove all plastic bags altogether.
- Sell produce bags in store.
- Sell "don't forget your bag" keychain to help people remember to bring their bags.
- Offer biodegradable paper bags for fresh produce.
- Work with suppliers on better packaging solutions such as waxed paper, cardboard, tetra pack, glass etc.
- Encourage suppliers to avoid plastic scoops, spoons and cutlery with their products.
- Encourage suppliers to replace plastic milk / drink bottles to biodegradable / compostable alternatives.
- Implement boomerang bag system.
- Implement in-store pet bottle and can collection to avoid recyclable items ending up in landfill.
- Celebrate improved consumer behaviour.
- Highlight supplier achievements in store.
- Use funny and clever signage.
- Advertise your sustainable achievements.
For more customised assistance on how to improve your store, or to bring greater awareness to the great changes you have already made, we would love to help! The world loves to hear about people who care, so Connect with The Green Light Collective and start your journey now!