We all know that American’s have a knack for wasting food, but did you know that grocery stores have a big hand in contributing to that wasted food as well? So how exactly do supermarkets waste all that food and what methods can they use to reduce that waste
As it turns out, there are several ways that consumers and supermarkets can work together to reduce unnecessary waste.
The Major Problems
The United States has a big problem. We can’t stop wasting food.
Every year, our grocery stores, restaurants, and households throw 133 billion pounds of food into the garbage. That is over one-third of the food that the country produces during the same year.
While we can all be blamed for throwing out more food than we probably should, it has been noted over the years that grocery stores are responsible for at least 10% of that wasted food.
But if grocery stores are responsible for selling food, why would they want to risk throwing so much of it away? There is a multitude of reasons.
One of the biggest reasons that supermarkets dispose of much of their food is because many of these items are past their sell-by date. Does that mean that the food is no longer good after that date? Not at all.
This food is tossed mostly for the customer’s benefit because most people believe that this date is the final date that the food can be sold. Oddly enough, this is simply a date that indicates peak freshness, and in reality, the food is perfectly healthy and edible long after that date.
The other big reason that so much food is wasted is also for the customer’s benefit, and that is based on the idea that customer’s demand perfection, especially when it comes to produce.
If fruits and vegetables aren’t perfectly shaped, colored or textured then customers do not purchase them. Once the “bad” fruits begin to pile up, supermarkets see no other solution but to rid themselves of the imperfect product.
There are still more reasons why stores toss perfectly adequate food, including getting rid of outdated and unsold promotional items, throwing out product cases with the slightest cosmetic imperfections, and the destruction of generally unpopular products.
This unnecessary waste has gone on for decades and has become so much of a problem that most people, organizations, and authorities usually turn a blind eye to the problem and wave it off as business as usual.
Still, even though a process has been deemed mainstream doesn’t make it right, and as the issue of food waste enters the realm of public opinion, some store are starting to find alternatives to throwing out all this food, and they are easier to achieve than many may believe.
Over the years, there have been many options that have come available to supermarkets that prevent them from wasting so much food. Here are a few of the methods that have been gaining popularity.
The Abundance Issue
Often, grocery stores are wasting food because they want to keep up with the perspective of the customers, which is believing that grocery stores should be overflowing with product. When they shop, customers like to see an overabundance of produce at store displays, and they are often turned off by empty display shelves.
There are several tricks the store management can utilize to give the impression that shelves are overstuffed even if just an optical illusion.
For instance, installing mirrors over products can create the illusion there is a larger amount of food on the shelf than there is. Stores might also try inserting a false bottom into a display case which lifts the fruit up higher, also giving the illusion that there is more produce there than meets the eye.
These tricks will make customers believe the shelves are still fully stocked which leads to the proper amount of food being put out on the shelves, which in turn equals less wasted food.
Buy One, Get One
Stores of all types are always trying to make a few extra bucks by offering Buy One, Get One Free or BOGOF deals. These deals involve the customers getting a second item free with the purchase of the same item at full price.
This seems like a good deal at the store, but in many cases the customers usually end up eating only one of the two items they receive while throwing out the other due to it going bad, them losing interest, etc. It’s a case of the consumer’s eyes being bigger than their stomach.
While this isn’t only the fault of the markets, the management can help to ease this waste by limiting the BOGOF deal or offering it for smaller or non-perishable items.
As previously mentioned, one of the reasons food is wasted is because customers are not properly informed about sell-by dates.
Each year millions of dollars in food are disposed of when customers see food on the shelf that is getting close to its sell-by date.
Although you can’t change the minds of everyone, grocery stores could cut down on this waste by trying informative campaigns or by posting instructional signs posted around the market that give realistic expiration dates and proper explanations of sell-by dates.
Some countries are even taking steps to cut down on this needless waste by proposing legislation that would remove sell-by dates from food completely. The European Union has made big steps in this regard. The hope is that the other countries of the world will follow suit.
Mass Food Waste Can be a Thing of the Past
When it comes down to it, knowledge is the biggest tool that we have at our disposal to truly put an end to unnecessary food waste, but we can’t do it alone. Retailers and individuals need to work together to truly quell the issue.
If stores can do their part to educate the consumers better while they shop then there is a chance that the customers and their families will waste less in their own home.
There is always light at the end of the tunnel, and if we can all work together then, we will make our way towards successfully ending unnecessary food waste.