Choose your region

If food waste were a country

If food waste were a country, this country would be about the size of Canada and India combined. And it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the US.

Both low- and high-income countries as well as all parts of the supply chain are guilty of throwing away huge amounts of food that have been produced. But every year high-income countries waste billions of euros worth of food. According to FAO 14% of the world’s food (estimated value is $400 billion) gets wasted before it reaches the shop, while 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021.

And the problem doesn’t end there because more than 95% of the global food waste ends in landfills where it turns into methane and other greenhouse gasses.

According to Professor of Bio-Economics Liesbet Vranken at KU Leuven, most of the food waste created is done by consumers. Unawareness plays a significant role in this. So what can we the hospitality industry do to limit our food waste, create more awareness in the consumer, and have a positive impact on their behaviour?

Let’s dive deeper.

What do the numbers say?

To get a better overview of the issue surrounding food waste, here are some numbers:

The EU wastes more food than it imports. With the use of the most up-to-date measuring techniques, it is estimated that the EU wastes 153.5 million tons of food each year, while the EU imports 138 million tons of agricultural products. 9.4% of food waste in the EU is generated by restaurants and food services.

During the first year of the pandemic in 2020, it is estimated that each inhabitant of the EU wasted 127 kg of food. Restaurants and food services accounted for 12 kg of food wasted per person, which is around 9.4%. However, the effect of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns on this figure is still being analyzed. 25% of the world’s freshwater is used to produce food that will never reach our mouths.

Food waste is not just a waste of produce, but it is also a waste of the resources needed to produce food. Water is one of these resources. With climate change becoming more and more noticeable and more areas susceptible to an increased risk of drought, it is important that we look after our water supply. Reducing our food waste will have a massive impact on this as well.

What can be done?

According to Liesbet Vranken, a professor in Bio-Economics at KU Leuven, most consumers are unaware of the role they play in the food waste issue. According to their research, 53% of food waste generated is created by households and consumers. Creating more awareness and offering practical advice is her first recommended step in reducing food waste.

She says that changing consumer psychology is going to be beneficial and that the food service industry can definitely play an important role in this.

So as an industry, it is not only beneficial to change our own behaviour and make sure that we waste as little food as possible in our businesses, but it will also be beneficial to reduce food waste created by our customers. As well as helping them to make more conscious decisions in the future.

Easy steps you can take according to an expert

We asked Liesbet Vranken for some tips on how the industry can improve. Here are some of the points she mentioned.

Self-service restaurants

For self-service restaurants, it is all about encouraging diners to not dish up too much. Overserving food often leads to unnecessary waste. The first way to reduce this is by offering a smaller plate size. People will be able to dish up less at a time which will lead to less food being wasted as a result.

According to one study in Denmark smaller plates can lead to 26% less food waste in self-service restaurants.

Another way to reduce waste is to make diners aware that they can go back for multiple rounds so that they don’t dish up too much on their first round. This allows them to take smaller portions at a time.

Portion sizes

Reducing portion sizes is another way of reducing food waste. Keeping track of which menu items produce waste in your restaurant is important in determining which items can have their portion size reduced. This will highly benefit by preventing food to be wasted as well as cutting down on costs.

The “normal” size

Size does matter when it comes to your serving suggestions. How “normal” is your medium size? Consumers who order at restaurants might have the tendency to order the medium menu option instead of a large or a small option. This is because the medium option is usually presented as the normal option.

However, if you notice that many people are leaving food behind it would be good to reduce portion sizes as we mentioned earlier. Or change your labeling so that people can choose the menu or item size that they will be able to fully consume.

Storing produce correctly

Understanding which vegetables and fruits you store together and which you store separately will allow you to keep them usable for longer. Some fruits and vegetables create ethylene while they ripen, this chemical can lead to other ethylene-sensitive products turning bad sooner. So make sure you understand which ingredients do what, so you can store them correctly. Some ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables are apples, avocados, and tomatoes. Some ethylene-sensitive ingredients include broccoli, eggplant, and grapes.

Also, when looking at storage it is important to look at which fruits and vegetables are best stored inside and outside the fridge. It is easy to assume that everything is best stored inside the fridge but for many food items, this isn’t the case. For example tomatoes, bananas and onions are best stored outside of the fridge.

This is what Hoshizaki does

For us, at Hoshizaki, it is important to give our users the best products that will ensure their ingredients stay fresh for as long as possible so they can create tasty dishes and avoid wasting food.

Our new PREMIER refrigeration series has been completely optimized to create the best conditions for product cooling. Its features create the perfect temperatures to ensure foodsafety. The efficient air circulation maintains perfect temperatures and preserves the taste, texture, and nutritional content of fresh goods stored in it.

The self-closing door keeps the escape of cold air to a minimum and the Premier is designed in such a way that the inside temperature recovers rapidly each time the door has been opened and closed. It also has great energy efficiency for chefs who want to lower their environmental impact.

As an industry, we have the responsibility to take action and reduce our food waste as well as encourage our customers to make more conscious decisions. Not only for ourselves but also for future generations. We owe it to them to make sure we reduce the impact we make on the environment today.

Curious about which steps you can take today to lower your environmental impact? We have written a few blogs with easy-to-follow tips and tricks that you can start implementing today!

6 ways to cut down on your kitchen’s energy consumption
6 reasons to invest in high-quality kitchen equipment