Waste not, want not

Food waste affects much more than just your bottom line yet reducing your leftovers can boost your bank balance while simultaneously saving the planet

There are some startling facts about food waste that might make you think twice about throwing that salad in the bin just because it’s on a Best Before deadline. Or the apple that doesn’t exactly match your expectations when it comes to colour.

Around a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted from farm to fork. As well as representing a cost of around US$940 billion per year, that lost food consumes around a quarter of all water used by agriculture, is responsible for eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and requires a land area the size of China. At the same time, more than 800 million people are chronically undernourished.

Wasted food has long been frowned upon but, when you consider those stats, you begin to realise the scale and wide-ranging impact on economic, social and environmental levels.

Those figures come from Champions 12.3 – a coalition of executives from governments, businesses, international organisations, research institutions, farmer groups, and civil society dedicated to inspiring ambition, mobilising action, and accelerating progress toward achieving Sustainable Development Target 12.3 by 2030.

“Reducing food waste in the catering sector isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.”

Champions 12.3 was formed in September 2015 when the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with SDG 12 seeking to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. Section 12.3 specifically calls for cutting in half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains by 2030.

Reducing food waste is clearly good news all round – for the farmers, the consumers, and the planet – so it’s not surprising that savvy airport F&B operators are leading the way with ambitious targets and innovative solutions to minimise the problem in airports.

And it makes good business sense, too. A recent report by Champions 12.3 said that for every dollar that caterers invested in programmes to curb food waste, they saved more than US$6 in operating costs.

The first-of-its kind industry analysis (titled The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Catering) 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 US$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,” Group Chief Executive of Tesco and Chair of Champions 12.3 Dave Lewis said. “Reducing food waste in the catering sector isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.”

SSP, one of the leading operators of F&B concessions in travel locations, with more than 2,600 units in 33 countries, is one of the many operators doing their bit. SSP is reviewing the food production processes across its global operations, which includes aligning production to fit peaks and troughs in demand. In the Nordic region, this enabled SSP to reduce wasted sandwiches by 30 percent. SSP also partners with local charities to donate unsold food items, including Food Angel in Hong Kong Restos du Coeur in France.

SSP is also one of several travel retail companies that have teamed up with Danish start-up Too Good To Go. This app-based solution is now the world’s largest surplus food marketplace, connecting consumers with food businesses. Participating cafes, juice bars and restaurants can sell whatever fresh foods would otherwise go to waste.

Customers pay via the app, with the app developers taking a cut of the sale and the remainder going to the restaurant.

Meal deal: The Too Good To Go app connects savvy customers with F&B outlets in a win-win transaction to reduce waste

SSP France, who worked with Too Good To Go, said colleagues had really engaged with the initiative and, importantly, the company has been able to reduce food waste by 40 percent. After an initial trial, the scheme was rolled out to all of its restaurants in March 2019. It was such a success that the programme has been shortlisted in the FAB Awards Environmental category.

Lagardère Travel Retail has also teamed up with Too Good To Go and has set itself an ambitious target of reducing waste by 50 percent by 2025. It aims to achieve this by optimising stock management, transforming waste and reusing unsold produce (which is where the award-winning Too Good To Go comes in).

Munich Airport subsidiary Allresto also launched a pilot project with Too Good To Go across its F&B operations, allowing passengers, employees and visitors the chance to order surplus food ready for takeaway between 8pm and 9:30pm.

As good as Too Good To Go is, there are of course other ways to combat waste, and one of our favourite projects is Soup & Bakery by De Verspillingsfabriek at Schiphol Plaza. In English translating as The Surplus Food Factory, De Verspillingsfabriek was founded by Bob Hutten. The story goes that Bob was so frustrated by the food waste around him that he got his hands on an empty manufacturing plant, secured a bank loan, and began to transform ‘lost vegetables’ into delicious soups. Any vegetable considered the wrong size or shape was ideal, as were cuttings and trimmings.

Soups by De Verspillingsfabriek are available at the company’s Schiphol Plaza outlet and are made by people disadvantaged on the labour market. As well as a variety of soups, there are pastries, savouries and cakes too.

Soup & Bakery by De Verspillingsfabriek is a joint initiative of HMSHost International – an Autogrill Group subsidiary - Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and De Verspillingsfabriek.

Areas a global brand of Elior Group, welcomes 340 million customers each year in 2,100 restaurants and points of sale in 13 countries, throughout Europe as well as the USA, Mexico, Chile and Colombia. Areas has started a ‘Zero Waste’ project to donate surplus foods from 17 outlets in Terminal 4 of the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport.

Working with Phenix 4, the idea is to provide help to underprivileged families in the city. Once established, Areas aims to extend the programme to other terminals and other airports.

Whichever way you decide to make a difference, and whatever your motivation, it’s clearly time to address food waste. The best solution is to try to ensure that people eat the food that is produced but, failing that, at least many airports have the ability to convert catering waste into biomass fuel to generate electricity. In 2016, London Gatwick was the first airport in the world to handle such waste on-site.

Previously 2,200 tonnes of high-risk food and packaging from non-EU flights had to be sent for specialist handling. Now Gatwick is saving around £1,000 (US$1,265) a day.

Food for thought, indeed.

The Foodie Report | 25 June 2019