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What can the food and drink industry do to limit waste?

business-articlesWhat can the food and drink industry do to limit waste?
The challenge of minimising waste affects all businesses, but in light of the current global food crisis, waste in the food and drink industry is seen as a particular priority right now.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization found that 1.3bn tonnes of food worth over $9bn goes to waste every year, with 60% of the waste occurring at the production level.

There are plenty of incentives for business in the Food and Drink industry to take action. Most crucially, less waste equates to lower costs which equates to better profitability. Taking steps to address your business’s wastage can also improve your image with consumers and improve productivity.

At a business level this waste can be caused by several factors including poor food handling, production waste, food perishing, and damage during harvesting. In this piece, we’ll outline approaches that businesses of all scales can take to help cut back their waste.


Data tracking

A crucial part of reducing the food waste generated by your business is through data tracking. The implementation of proper data tracking can help to pinpoint areas of your production, packaging, and shipping processes that are generating the most waste.

There are a variety of approaches when it comes to data tracking and inventory management:
  1. Waste Audit – A systematic and thorough review of a business’ entire facility and operations. Typically used in the early stages to identify key waste areas and processes in an operation.
  2. Tracking – Allows a business to collect data in real-time that can inform approaches to waste management. A focus on tracking can allow businesses to drill down into specific dates, food types, and locations to identify where the most food waste is occurring.
  3. Management – If a business has an abundance of unsold or unused food produce, the correct usage of management can help to reduce warehouse waste.
There are also other benefits to proper data analysation. Improving the weighing and measuring facilities in your business can help to reduce wastage in the ordering and production processes.

Process improvements can even extend to the pre-production level. Recently, enzymes have been added to burger buns and crackers to create products that are less subject to damage. This ensures that more products remain sellable after transport from factory to store.


Staff awareness and training

A comprehensive approach to reducing food waste needs to be implemented from the top down. Cake and dessert manufacturer BBF had the following to say on their comprehensive approach to staff awareness and training:

‘Throughout our bakeries, we’ve provided colour coded food waste and surplus bins and have rolled out comprehensive training to educate and support out employees on reducing food waste and surplus.’

It’s important as a business to make the process of reducing waste as easy as possible for your employees. Providing the correct resources upfront will help to keep staff engagement on the issue high and improve staff welfare. Research conducted by food waste app Too Good To Go found that 9 out of 10 employees experienced negative emotions over wasting food.

If your business utilises on-site cooking staff, it’s important to ensure that they are making use of an appropriate food rotation system to mitigate this. Poor food preparation was highlight by climate action NGO WRAP as a key contributor to food waste. WRAP found poor training in this area contributes to roughly 45% of a business’s food wastage.

Training your staff in a food rotation system such as FIFO (First In, First Out) can ensure that food is used before it spoils and mitigate food waste.


Improved packaging

A key method of keeping food fresh and unspoiled is to invest in better packaging. This in turn helps to extend the shelf-life of foodstuffs and reduce food waste.

‘Use by’ dates are one area in which crucial improvement can be made to reduce food waste. Campaigners estimate that around 4.5 million tonnes of food are thrown away when it is otherwise edible. Clearer labels that better explain a food’s lifespan could help to reduce the amount of food waste at point of use.

Another way to improve waste generated by food is through making packaging easier to recycle. A large percentage of food packaging is made using materials that either cannot be recycled or are not widely accepted as such.

The use of newer types of microplastics can allow businesses to produce packaging that doesn’t go straight to a landfill. Companies are beginning to use one-polymer polyethylene for all their packaging rather than a collection of different polymer types. This approach can lead to ensuring that between 80-90% of your packaging is easily recyclable.

There are still specific challenges around packaging for cheese and meat, however. Manufacturers are seeking to strike a balance between the use of one-polymer polyethylene and packaging that ensures food remains unspoiled.


The ‘circular’ approach

A ‘circular economy’ is designed to keep resources within a business’s production chain for as long as possible. The process is also sometimes known as ‘valorisation’ and aims to generate new income streams whilst also reducing waste.

Composting is this process at its most basic. Waste in food manufacturing can be re-used to produce compost that they can be re-used or sold on. Nature’s Way Foods implemented composting in their waste reduction efforts and was able to save around £65,000 per year.
Products that would previously have been written off as leftovers or off-cuts can also be incorporated into this ‘circular economy’. Some examples include broken biscuits being crumbled and added to new batches, alcohol made from excess bread or potatoes, and orange peel used in the flavouring of juice.

Disposing of waste in the correct way can also allow the extraction of by-products that can then be sold on. Experts recommend anaerobic digestion, breaking down waste using microorganisms, as being preferrable to the use of a landfill or soil. For example, Welsh firm Pennotec extracts Chitin from crustacean food waste and then sells the by-product on to cosmetic and toiletry firms.



Reducing wastage in the Food and Drink Industry does not need to be a high-cost low-reward effort. Initiatives as simple as introducing coloured bins and new training initiatives for your staff can help an atmosphere of resourcefulness to foster.

Improvements to your packaging can also help to reduce waste. Better packaging can lead to longer shelf-life for certain foods and better protect your goods during transportation.

Looking to the world of technology, data tracking solutions can help a business to pinpoint the exact processes where wastage occur and work to improve them.

Finally, utilising a circular economy in your business can lead to reduce wastage and new revenue streams. Keeping resources within your supply chain for as long as possible can help to improve your output.
Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct is one of Europe's leading non-bank providers of currency exchange and international payment services. Since we were formed in 1996, we've maintained our focus on providing innovative foreign exchange and international currency transfer services to corporations of all sizes, online sellers and private individuals. We have also expanded our services to provide dynamic and pioneering "business to business" solutions to help companies, tier 2/3 banks and other non-bank financial institutions to process their international payments. Our headquarters are in the City of London (United Kingdom) and we have operations in continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Currencies Direct is jointly owned by private equity firms Palamon Capital Partners and Corsair Capital.

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