Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Can Grocery Stores Change the Narrative on Food Waste?

December 15, 2014
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Can Grocery Stores Change the Narrative on Food Waste?
the average family in the U.S. wastes $1,500 in food annually. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A new report outlines how supermarkets can do their part.

An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from food hunger while the average family in the U.S. wastes $1,500 worth of food annually. Without the help of more conscious consumers and better food practices, that disparity is likely to only grow bigger. But food brands and grocery stores have an opportunity to step in and help make a change, according to a new report from brand innovation firm BBMG.

While some cities like San Francisco are making composting compulsory to reduce the amount of landfill waste, it’s simply not enough.Forget training programs and reach for the controller. But BBMG found by making subtle changes in how food companies approach customers, they could help could alter how consumers are experiencing food and food waste.

The company predicts that reducing waste is possible through making smarter consumer choices and by tapping Generation X and Millennials — two generations who love to consume, but are conscious of the environmental and social values of products. The nation’s younger population can help shift food practices, but must first overcome tendencies to overbuy, a lack of time for shopping, misleading expiration dates and poor food storage, the report finds.

Which is why grocery stores can allay these concerns by providing a few simple nudges for its customers. One example is BagIQ, a startup that’s tailoring a consumer’s experience at the grocery store. The startup aggregates bought items to create a list of healthy recipes based on the recent purchases. Grocery stores can apply a similar model by emailing a customer recipe ideas after they leave the store or through creating meal-planning apps to help organize food.

Grocery stores can also make it easier to donate food to charity or create a game-like experience for shopping lists to help shoppers visualize what they’re buying. As for expiry dates, or “best by” labels, BBMG suggests simplifying language to “Eat me first” stickers to help people recognize food that may spoil, rather than going by often inaccurate dates.

Storing food properly is also a major issue. BBMG said consumers often admit to not understanding optimal storage to avoid food from spoiling sooner. Grocery stores can educate customers on strategic storing, including what should be washed before its stored, if fruits can go next to vegetables and what should be eaten first. An app that helps with meal planning can also help map out when to use fresh produce.

Finally, grocery stores can also improve on waste is by providing consumer rewards and incentives for how often they visit a store rather than how much they purchase. With a tendency to overbuy, incentivizing frequency rather than quantity teaches consumers that it’s not always best to buy in bulk.

While some of these suggestions may take some planning, most are simplistic ways for food brands to innovate the way we think about food. For the 50 million Americans who go hungry, that’s a step worth taking.

MORE: Let’s Hope This Is the Next Big Food Trend

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