Throughout the world, food waste is a massive problem with adverse effects on the environment and economy alike. An estimated 1/3 of yearly food production is wasted; in Australia, that costs our economy around $20 billion each year.
If you’re a food producer, you might feel that your role in minimising food waste is limited. After all, beyond planting and harvesting crops, making sure they’re shipped out in good condition, what else can you do? Here are four ways you can help.
To reach distributors and large-scale retail centres, produce has to be loaded and shipped across long distances, a journey often involving multiple vehicles or storage facilities. Each time, the produce is going to be shifted, moved about, and potentially exposed to environments with poor temperature or moisture control.
You can influence the transportation and handling on your end by using reliable, lightweight materials such as cardboard pallets to protect your product. Choosing to work with carriers who strictly comply with regulations for controlling temperature and humidity inside their vehicles will also ensure that every batch of produce arrives at its destination in the best possible condition.
Optimised supply chains
The longer that produce has to travel, the higher the exposure to factors which cause deterioration and spoilage. Thus, another approach to reducing food waste would be through optimising the supply chain. A simple solution would be to shorten the distance and only supply local distributors and retailers.
However, only serving local markets can be bad for business and lead to market saturation; sometimes, there are more distant areas where demand for your products will be higher. Rather than merely limiting your distribution range, see if you can collaborate with other food industry professionals, or use new software solutions, to streamline your supply chain and implement best practices at every point.
Not surprisingly to those who’ve been in the food business for a while, a lot of food waste stems from overproduction. This can be costly for all involved, but particularly to you as a supplier – you’ll have grown more crops in your fields than there is a demand for.
Through increased communication and stronger relationships with your partners and buyers along the supply chain, you can better anticipate demand, and respond in the right way to make profits and avoid overproducing. Industry associations and cooperatives can be a valuable source of customer information that lets you forecast your production accurately.
As a seller of primary produce, you may not be significantly invested in the latest packaging materials or methods. However, you can choose to only work with downstream distributors and manufacturers who implement innovative and reliable packaging methods when processing your produce. Labels with clear information regarding spoilage dates and recommended product storage will educate the customer. Effective use of natural preservatives or fungal inhibitors will help extend shelf life.
If you can introduce some of these innovations on your end, you can make a difference with products such as coffee beans that may reach the end consumer pretty much unaltered from the source, including packaging.
When it comes to food waste, you won’t be able to control a lot of variables once the crops have been harvested and loaded for transport. But if you maximise your impact in the ways that are available to you, you’ll have a considerable influence in the effort to combat food waste and feed more people each day.