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Food Institute Webinar Takes a Closer Look at Food Waste Innovation

Food waste is at a crisis level. While 9% of the world’s population and 12% of Americans are food insecure, one-third of all food produced is thrown away. Further, wasted food accounts for about 8% all green-house gas emissions.

The food waste problem is dire, but it is improving as NGOs, corporations, government agencies and consumers confront the problem.

In a recent Food Institute webinar entitled “How the Food Industry Is Tackling Food Waste – Latest Innovations and Trends,” Alexandria Coari, VP of Capital, Innovation & Engagement of ReFED, Julien Biolley, Director, Business Development & Marketing, Chr. Hansen, and Patrick O’Reilly, Principal, Marcum, discussed how the food waste dilemma is being addressed.

“We are focused on ending food loss and waste with data-driven solutions,” said Coari. She noted that surplus food in the U.S. occurs across the supply chain, as follows: Farms, 21%; Manufacturing, 14%; Consumer-Facing Businesses (stores, restaurants), 28%; Homes/Consumers, 37%.

ReFED’s goal is to reduce the amount of food waste on a national and international level by 50% by 2030. This will require $14 billion in annual funding to be invested in seven action areas:

  • Optimize the Harvest
  • Enhance Product Distribution
  • Refine Product Management
  • Maximize Product Utilization
  • Reshape Consumer Environments
  • Strengthen Food Rescue
  • Recycle Anything Remaining

Bioscience company Chr. Hansen is addressing food waste with technology, with a focus on dairy. Biolley observed, “Twenty percent of all dairy food is wasted globally.” With that, the company’s FreshQ® food cultures extend the shelf life of dairy products and Chr. Hansen is committed to reducing 1.2 million tons of yogurt waste by 2022.

Marcum’s O’Reilly pointed out the economic impact of food waste. He said, “The indirect cost of food waste is huge,” adding that The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates the environmental cost is more than $1 trillion annually.

The economic opportunity of reducing food waste by 20% in the U.S. will:

  • Generate a net economic benefit of $10 billion for consumers and businesses
  • Reduce water demand by 1.6 trillion gallons or 1.5% of total usage
  • Create about 15,000 new jobs
  • Diverts 9.5 million tons of waste from landfills

In response to an audience question, O’Reilly observed that venture capital firms and impact investors are funding companies and contributing to NGOs that can reduce food waste.

Ron Tanner has been observing and reporting on the food industry for more than four decades, including 33 years with the Specialty Food Association and 10 years with Progressive Grocer Magazine. He has presented hundreds of educational programs and currently serves as a senior advisor for The Food Institute.