The hospitality industry has long been plagued by the financial costs of food waste. However, with a growing consumer culture that is increasingly aware of the environmental costs of food waste, and a global mission to drive sustainability, the tipping point to tackle food waste is here.
With the publication of its report titled Overcoming the Food Waste Challenge: Improving Profit While Doing Good, Coresight Research has brought to the forefront key data that supports the call for an industry-wide mission to eliminate food waste. Coresight is a respected source of retail industry data with a mission to accelerate innovation and growth.
Sustainability by the Numbers
The new Coresight report examines the scope of the food waste problem in North America. The numbers are enlightening and provide a look at the landscape in which hospitality companies are currently operating.
The report covers the entire scope of economic, social, and environmental impacts of food waste, and here are just two central statistics Coresight reported:
- Enormous loss of revenue-30% of food in U.S. grocery is thrown away, amounting to $21 billion in net income annually
- Additional economic, societal, and environmental costs – the disposal of waste incurs costs and generates carbon emissions; an estimated 50 million Americans will face food insecurity this year
And here is the good news: 90% of food business respondents in the Coresight survey said reducing food waste is important for reaching their sustainability goals and 72% have set sustainability goals specific to food waste.
Technology Tackles Food Waste
While the Coresight report provides a vivid portrait of the many ramifications of food waste in North America, it also offered a blueprint for solutions to address this enormous problem. It identified how technology can be used to manage and reduce food waste for the benefit of retailers and the environment.
The survey also uncovered an industry action plan: 84% of respondents plan to invest in technologies over the next two years to manage food waste. More importantly, the technology sector has already developed technologies that are currently available to solve this escalating issue. These technologies include AI-based demand forecasting, RFID and Blockchain to manage inventory and capitalize on the opportunity to improve profits while reducing the costly disposal of edible food into landfills.
For example, overproduction and overordering are noted as the main causes of food waste, according to survey respondents. This could be mitigated with more accurate forecasting and better inventory management. In fact, AI-driven demand forecasting/planning is the top area for planned future investment.
Industry Voices in Action
The GS1 Connect conference coincidentally took place just prior to the release of the Coresight food waste report. This year’s conference demonstrated a departure from previous years with its concentration on the total food vertical’s end-to-end supply chain encompassing the farm, distribution center and hospitality business.
This was a paradigm shift for GS1 which pivoted from its traditional focus on data quality and data sharing to an embrace of total traceability and the end-to-end supply chain. In other words, not only leveraging data, but taking actionable insights from that data. A key takeaway from GS 1 is that digital identification solutions such as RFID will help solve and support challenges, including sustainability.
Government Steps In
The hospitality industry is also currently working towards being able to comply with the new FSMA 204 legislation. While mitigating foodborne illness, this legislation has also prompted industry to take greater strides towards sustainability. The new law mandates that food suppliers must report traceability within 24 hours of a recall and will become one of the main drivers for improved traceability. This is the first revamp of the food supply chain in fifty years.
How does FSMA 204 address food waste? Quite simply, deploying digital identification solutions, such as RFID, to trace foodborne illness back to a specific source, only food items from that specific source need to be discarded. For example, in a recall of romaine lettuce due to foodborne illness, only heads of romaine lettuce that are digitally traced back to a single farm, DC or retail purveyor need to be discarded—not all romaine lettuce in the current food supply chain must become food waste.
The Coresight report, GS1 and FSMA 204 are all moving the hospitality industry towards a sustainable future. Intelligent food industry solutions currently exist to take food waste out of the economic, social, and environmental equation. With technology, hospitality businesses can indeed protect the planet and their bottom line.