Food Waste across the Supply Chain
You already know Bruized is all about fighting food waste by upcycling imperfect produce and juice pulp into our products. Today, we’d like to dig a little deeper to give you a glimpse of food waste across the supply chain in order to foster a better understanding of this problem and learn what actionable steps we can take to reduce waste within our own lives.
58% of all food produced is lost or wasted. (Second Harvest)
What actually is food waste?
Let’s get some terminology straight - food loss refers to any food that is discarded along the food supply chain before it reaches retail level ¹. Food waste is a decrease in the quality or quantity of food stemming from decisions or actions by the retailers, food service providers or consumers ¹.
Put simply, food loss and waste (FLW) is the amalgamation of food across the value chain, that could have been eaten but was tossed instead.
The issue of food waste is complex and multi-faceted and does not have one quick-fix. Rather, most levels of the food supply chain will have to be disassembled and then rebuild in order to have a truly closed loop food system. Each link in the supply chain creates some form of food waste both unintentionally or intentionally, and this ultimately results in less food available for consumption.
Food loss and waste is a systemic issue that results from how the food system presently operates. Systemic issues can only be fully addressed by tackling the underlying assumptions, values and practices that determine how the present system operates. (Second Harvest)
Why We Use Imperfect Produce
At Bruized, we use imperfect produce in our operations as a means to reduce food waste, because we saw the issue first hand on farms, in processing facilities and in retail stores. Farms account for 10% of food waste through Canada’s food value chain ². When we first started our market research, we visited local farms around Toronto and talked to farmers about the challenges they faced with farm waste. Many farms actually grow much more produce than they can pick - this is one of the areas that imperfect produce gets neglected. Most cannot justify using tight labour costs and/or don’t have the time to pick misshapen produce- there just isn’t a market for it. Consumers and retail stores usually expect produce to look aesthetically perfect, and processing facilities prefer produce that is of similar shape and size to make production run smoother.
Processing facilities account for 20% of all food waste in Canada. Bruized is tackling a small chunk of the processing level of food waste by targeting juice bars for their leftover juice pulp to turn into our Pulp Crunch.
Consumer Food Waste
Consumer food waste accounts for a whopping 47% of food waste in Canada. Why do we as individuals create the most amount of waste? As with the entire food waste chain, there are multiple reasons, however if we had to choose it would be the fact that we have grown into a culture of accepting the normalization of waste. Second Harvest identified five consumer reactions that cause FLW in industry, hotels, restaurants and Institutions (HRI), and within the home. Three of these really stood out to us as ways in which our behaviour as consumers produces FLW:
When shelves are only partly filled in stores, purchasing of the product slows. To prevent this, retailers aim to keep shelves full but this can lead to overproduction and waste within the retail store simply to sustain an illusion of abundance.
Best Before Dates
Consumers typically interpret “best before” to mean “bad after”. For this reason, processors and manufacturers tend to use overly conservation best before dates to increase sales
According to respondents, consumers do not buy imperfect looking fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, an Ontario community food program stated that some of their clients would not accept misshapen vegetables when offered at no cost.
This last point is important as it shows how our perceptions have been shaped to be aversive to produce that does not look like the “normal” industry standards. In reality however, normal fruits and vegetables without human intervention are often very “misshapen”- though nutritionally identical to the “pretty” produce.
What Can I do?
We want to leave you with a few ideas on how you, as a consumer, can join the fight against food waste and challenge wasteful industry norms!
Show some love to the odd-balls, the bruised and the lonely! Be that person that grabs the last banana/zucchini/packaged good on the shelf. The last item is the hardest to sell so make it easier on the retail store to reduce their own waste.
Seek out discounted produce This is our fave way to snag super sweet, ripe fruits just waiting to be frozen for your morning smoothies! Often grocery stores will have a discount rack, but not always and if they don’t... ask them why not! We have the power to make changes in our community, all it takes is one person to start.
Take preventative steps to reduce your at home waste Buy only what you need and if you are in a pinch, freezing is a great option for conserving just about everything. Frozen produce makes for a great add-in to soups, stews, and smoothies!
We hope to inspire you to create small to big positive changes in your life to reduce food waste! Tag us on Instagram with your food waste reduction practices @bruizedco and hashtag #EatBruized.
. FAO Food Loss and Waste Introduction
. Value Chain Management International Inc. Food waste in Canada - "$27 Billion" Revisited
. Second Harvest The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste: Technical Report