Research: Caterers Saved $6 for Every $1 Invested in Reducing Food Waste
New research on behalf of Champions 12.3 finds there is a compelling business case for food service operators serving hospitals, schools, sports arenas and other facilities to reduce food waste. The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Catering shows that for every $1 caterers invested in programs to curb food waste, they saved more than $6 in operating costs.
The first-of-its kind industry analysis examined financial cost and benefit data for 86 sites across six countries. Within one year, the sites had reduced food waste by 36 percent on average, and 64 percent had recouped their investment.
These food service operators made a range of investments in food waste reduction programs, including purchasing smart scales or similar technology to measure their food waste, training staff in measurement and techniques to reduce waste, and redesigning menus. A full 79 percent of sites were able to keep their total investment in food waste reduction below $10,000.
The financial returns come from reducing purchase costs by buying less food, increasing revenue from new menu items developed from unsold food or those once considered “scraps,” and reduced waste management costs.
“Taking action across the food industry is vital if we are to halve global food waste by 2030,” says Dave Lewis, Group Chief Executive of Tesco and Chair of Champions 12.3. “As Chair of Champions 12.3, I’m delighted to be able to share today’s report, which clearly shows that reducing food waste in the catering sector isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.”
“We began segregating, weighing and reporting our food waste in early 2014 through our own online accounts portal. We split the waste in to production waste, spoilage waste and plate waste and alongside that ran our in-house Green Flash training modules. We have seen some fantastic results with more than 40% reduction in waste,” says Mike Hanson, Head of Sustainable Business for BaxterStorey. “The ROI is far reaching and not just financial in terms of cost of food; we have also seen huge savings in waste disposal and energy costs for our clients, our margins have improved and we have seen a massive reduction in carbon and other environmental impacts.”
One-third of all food produced in the world goes uneaten, leading to tremendous economic, social and environmental impacts. Food loss and waste accounts for $940 billion in economic losses and 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions annually. At the same time, more than 800 million people are chronically undernourished.
“This report has real-world lessons that can be applied in company kitchens today,” adds Liz Goodwin, Senior Fellow and Director, Food Loss and Waste at World Resources Institute. “The catering industry has been a leader in piloting creative solutions for reducing pre-consumer food waste. The task now is to expand the pilots and for those in the industry to learn from what others have seen success doing. This is critical for companies to realize the financial benefits for themselves and contribute to the global effort to halve food waste.”
“We have made great progress, particularly in the business sector, in building reduction of food waste into their DNA. But there is still a lot of work to do if we are going to reach the UN SDG 12.3 to halve food waste by 2030,” says Marcus Gover, Chief Executive of WRAP. “This report, co-authored by WRAP & WRI, is yet more compelling proof for business that you can provide great customer service, and a great customer experience, while reducing costs and the impact of food waste on the environment.”
The report recommends catering managers take a “target, measure, act” approach to reduce the amount of food wasted from their kitchens. It outlines five actions institutional caterers should take, based on interviews with those who have implemented successful food waste reduction programs: (1) measure the amount of food being wasted to know where to prioritize efforts, (2) engage staff, (3) start small and get creative, (4) reduce overproduction, and (5) re-purpose excess food. By sharing knowledge about what works and expanding its efforts, the industry can play an important role in halving food waste in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3.