The entire supply chain in hospitality has a role to play in tackling the issue of food waste, according to Tracey Rogers, Unilever Food Solutions managing director.
Addressing an audience from across the industry under the banner of ‘United Against Waste’, she said it was estimated that avoidable food waste in hospitality was worth around pound;722m, and that this equated to pound;2.3bn in lost sales based on a gross profit of 69%.
She warned that the Government was turning its attention to food waste in the sector, and added: “As an industry we’ve got the opportunity to pull together and make a real commitment to take action and reduce food waste. We need to up our game and get better at throwing away less, but we’ll only achieve this if we all work together. All of us have a role to play and need to take responsibility. We simply have to waste less.”
Speaking to Wholesale News after the meeting she said wholesalers had an important role to play. “Operators rely on their wholesalers for a huge amount of information that helps them to run their operation more successfully and they could inform them about the issues and the tools that are available. That should be relatively simple with the waste reduction kit, Wise up on Waste, which we have assembled with the SRA [Sustainable Restaurant Association].”
Brakes environment and sustainability manager Ken Mulholland said: “This is an important issue for financial and environmental reasons. A year ago all the talk was about recycling, but now there has been a shift towards waste prevention.
“In our operations most of the food waste occurs before the customer sees it, for instance if a forklift damages a case, and we are working to minimise damage.
“We also have a role to play in supporting our customers in waste prevention with advice on issues such as portion control and managing the size of packs and portions. We have a lot of tools for retailers on our website and we have an in-house nutritionist and a dietician.”
The company is also involved in an initiative with the food charity Fareshare (see box) which is enabling it to reduce the amount the edible food that is sent to landfill.
Lindsay Winser, communications controller at 3663, said that while the major food waste was at the end user level, 3663 needed to minimise its own food waste, and already three sites were at zero waste to landfill. She added: “With the end users it’s more about us giving help and advice. Sometimes it can be really simple things like clear refuse bag so chefs can see how much is being thrown away.”
With around 30% of waste being food left by diners, 3663 will also be providing the boxes for an SRA ‘doggy bag’ initiative that will encourage reserved British customers to ask to take their leftovers home.
Thomas Jelley, corporate citizenship manager, Sodexo UK and Ireland, agreed that a joint approach including wholesalers and suppliers was needed. He said: “This worked well on packaging waste and a similar approach to food waste is likely to lead to similar benefits.
“Wholesalers have a view further up the supply chain and they can help by bringing in their insight on where the barriers are and that is crucial information because there may be things we’re doing further down the food chain which we need to change to reduce food waste further up the food chain.”
He said there were good business reasons for wholesalers to get involved because sustainability criteria were an important element in Sodexo’s supply chain criteria. “It’s becoming more and more important because our clients are asking the same questions of us.”
In March 2010 Brakes entered a partnership with FareShare, a charity that provides meals to more than 30,000 vulnerable people each month, many of them living in hostels, day centres, night shelters and woman’s refuges.
Brakes provides the charity with perfectly good food which is nearing the end of its shelf life, meaning that products that would otherwise have gone to landfill, releasing harmful methane and costing the company thousands of pounds in disposal costs, is now productively used.
Brakes is stepping up its involvement with the charity, with a team volunteering programme in 2012 with a target of 12 teams a year participating in the programme. It has also committed to donate one million meal equivalents a year to FareShare by the end of 2012.
Lindsey Boswell, CEO of FareShare said: “The food provided by Brakes is exactly the kind of high quality food our community members really need.”