How can your business reduce food waste?

17th August 2015

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Wasted stock is a huge burden to businesses, especially for firms who must sell, transport or store perishable goods such as food. This particular area is a sensitive issue as the amount of usable food disposed of continues to grow globally while resources become more scarce. 

However, there are a number of solutions that can alleviate this problem, saving money and improving the supply chain for these important products.

Australia discards huge amounts of food

According to Foodwise, Australians consumers as a whole have a tenancy to waste food, with approximately 4 million tonnes going to the landfill per year by their estimates.

Organic, non packaged food accounts for 23.9 per cent of overall disposed goods.

State authorities have also reported high levels of food waste, with a garbage bag audit in NSW reporting this as the most frequently occurring material in commercial and industrial disposals. Organic, non packaged food accounted for 23.9 per cent of overall disposed goods, outranking the next material (plastic packaging) by a full 12.5 per cent. In regional areas, the proportion of disposed food was even greater. 

Considering that the Australian population is increasing year by year, the consequences of wasting food will put a major strain on resources in the future, as supply struggles to keep up with demand. 

Do you need a better stock management system?

Brian Walker, CEO of retail consulting company, Retail Doctor Group, recently expressed how digital technology can improve stock management, in an August 11 article for SmartCompany. By his calculations, 25 per cent of stock on the shelves will be written off for many retailers. Using a system that will monitor the level of goods on premises, such as structured stock software, can limit over- or under-purchasing, reducing the amount of excess stock that is discarded. 

For retailers , Walker recommends keeping track of expiry dates and continually lowering prices as food reaches expiration. Having digital displays rather than traditional paper price tags can ensure prices are adjusted automatically. This sophisticated clearance method can be offered through online and physical channels and may even raise customer loyalty, according to Walker. 

Handling post-consumer waste 

While proper inventory management can directly reduce food wasted by businesses, there is still an issue regarding what happens to products post-purchase. As Australian consumers continue to dispose of edible food, there is an opportunity for businesses to take an ethical initiative and give back to the community.

Donating usable food to organisations such as Give Food and city missions can do a lot for your business reputation and strengthens the relationship with the community. While it may take a little effort to save, store and deliver goods to these organisations, the benefits of doing so for brand reputation and waste reduction outweigh the costs of time and effort.

Shellfish by-products have the potential to be refined into useful materials.Shellfish by-products have the potential to be refined into useful materials.

Not only can useable food be recycled, by-products that would usually be disposed of can be repurposed in surprising ways. For example, seafood shells - which contribute to over 6 million tonnes of waste a year - are a source of many useful materials, such as protein, chitin and calcium-carbonate, according to researchers at the National University of Singapore. The raw value of these goods is very little (around $100 per tonne for shrimp shells), but through refinement and processing, they can be applied to any number of further situations . 

Calcium-carbonate can be used for the production of plastics and pharmaceuticals, nitrogen-rich chitin has a huge role in household products and protein is a perfect additive to animal feed and fertiliser. However, further developments and study is needed to make the bio-refinement process sustainable. This could be a promising area for those in the manufacturing industry to focus on in the future.