How to Modify Traditional Store Practices to Reduce Organic Waste
While most grocery chains have now implemented organics waste recycling programs to separate out this material stream and prevent it from being sent to landfill, there are many important steps that retailers can take to reduce the amount of organic waste that they produce in the first place.
Growing food requires considerable resources, energy and labor. Letting food go to waste therefore results in inflated costs and food prices, and weakens the food supply chain.
In this article, we look at a few simple store practices that can be modified to reduce the amount of organic waste that your business generates.
Make Ugly Beautiful
Most retailers set high cosmetic standards for food products. Produce that is even slightly asymmetrical, discolored, or the wrong size never makes it to the produce bin. It’s estimated that food retailers lose $15 billion annually due to these “imperfections,” even if the produce is of an otherwise high standard and nutritional value.
To reduce this unnecessary food waste, some retailers now sell “less than perfect” fruit and vegetables at a discounted price. Not only does this reduce waste, but it also presents an opportunity for retailers to make a profit on sales to customers who value sustainability, or who can’t afford the prices of standard fresh produce.
Upgrade Inventory Systems With The Latest Technology
Advancements in automation and software capabilities have made inventory management scalable across more SKUs. Some large retailers are now using software to input their store layouts so that deliveries are organized in shelving sequence, going directly from distribution warehouse to the retail floor. This has reduced excess inventory and handling, and minimized the amount of perishables that are wasted.
When these technologies roll out at a large scale, the savings will be considerable and inventory system technology will become commonplace. Companies will be able to set KPIs related to food loss and waste, track performance against those metrics, and adapt their processes to improve performance.
Distribute Surplus Food To Charities
Given the perishable nature of fresh food, grocery stores will always end up with some surplus produce. Rather than throwing out edible food that can’t be sold, some large retailers have built nationwide distribution systems to provide surplus edible food to charities.
Lots of local organizations and food banks take donations, with non-liability written into national legislation such as the The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which specifically protects food donors. Organizations that accept excess food for human consumption usually have their own standards, which fundamentally all require that the food is properly stored and handled, and within expiration dates.
California’s newest organic legislation, AB 1383, plainly encourages food donation for human consumption as a way to keep more food out of landfills and as an alternative to composting.
New technology can help to bring together stakeholders across the U.S. food chain. ReFED is a national non-profit organization that is advancing such data-driven solutions to connect producers, manufacturers, retailers and policy makers.
Standardize Product Labeling
Product labeling has historically been a significant source of food waste, with consumers misinterpreting “best by” dates to be expiration dates and discarding food unnecessarily. These dates are often only set by manufacturers as a way to ensure consumption at the peak of freshness.
As owners of private label food products and shelf space, large food retailers can pressure manufacturers to replace “best by” labeling with “best if used by.” “Sell by” labeling can then be used for highly perishable foods to indicate expiration. Retailers can also use new packaging technology to extend the product shelf life of their own products.
Reduce Stock Levels and Minimize Damage to Perishables
Data analytics have now proven that consumers don’t require well-stocked displays to make a purchase. One grocery chain discovered that piling perishables high in produce bins resulted in greater damage and labor costs. By finding new ways to display perishables, as well as reducing stock levels, the retailer boosted customer satisfaction because their produce stays fresh for longer. It also saved them an estimated $100 million per year. One such display methodology is to use narrow rows to indicate abundance.
Zero in on Zero Waste
Some retailers are going further still, by creating zero-waste grocery stores, rethinking their waste footprint and designing stores that encourage customers to refill their own containers.
This refill model significantly reduces packaging waste and has worked well for specialty shops. However, larger grocery chains are still working to successfully apply this zero-waste design to their stores.
Reduce Organics Waste With NWA
National Waste Associates (NWA) has decades of experience creating low cost, highly efficient organic waste management programs for grocery chains. Our expert team tailors these programs to each store’s unique requirements, taking into account differences in operating hours, tonnages, availability of organics recycling technologies, and legislation between locations.
At the same time, NWA streamlines your waste operations so that they have the lowest carbon footprint, and the maximum value is extracted from all resources consumed. See how we did it for one of our customers here.
Want to implement reduction solutions that impact your bottom line across your grocery chain?
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