The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Unilever Works to Reduce Food Waste

Unilever Works to Reduce Food Waste

In the News

December 25, 2011

Nearly 80% of people in Western countries and 87% of people in developing countries are concerned about professional food waste, says a recent study from Unilever Food Solutions (UFS). Unilever’s World Menu Report Global Research Findings 2011 looked at the sustainability of out-of-home dining and found that globally, 84% of respondents are worried about the amount of food that is being thrown away every day.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), over half the food produced in the world today is lost, wasted or discarded as a result of poor planning in restaurants and at food retailers. Interestingly, UNEP points out that in the UK, 65% of food waste in the restaurant industry occurs at the preparation stage; just 30% occurs from food that is left on consumers’ plates.

Unilever talked to 3,500 people – from eight countries representing both the developed and developing world – who eat out at least once a week. Their first key concern is that there is too much professional food waste. The second key concern is making sure that disposal of food waste is environmentally-friendly. 

Concerns are generally higher across developing markets, with 70% of people in those markets prepared to pay more for meals in places that are implementing environmentally-friendly food waste disposal strategies; 46% would pay more in Western countries.

“More and more, consumers are looking for small ways to implement practices at home. Some are simply recycling, others are using energy efficient appliances or using products before they expire, and still others are composting. As consumers are more aware of reducing waste, they are also looking for similar standards for reducing food waste when they eat out – and they are willing to pay more for that reassurance,” says Kara Phillips, Channel Marketing Manager for Unilever.

When asked who should take responsibility for ensuring that there is more transparency about the sustainable practices of places to eat, a majority of American respondents said restaurant and canteen operators. But internationally, people feel that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure transparency. Foodservice suppliers, consumers and non-governmental organizations barely registered on the list.

“Internationally, many countries feel that the only way to tackle the problem of food waste is to have government regulate the issue. In the U.S., however, food industry members want the government to ensure transparency, but they also want food industry members to take it upon themselves to address the issue of food waste in a way that works best for their establishment and their community,” says Phillips.

This is Unilever’s second World Menu Report. The first report, released in January of 2011, highlighted the overwhelming need for the provision of more information about food when eating out of home. Their recently launched “United Against Waste” campaign is designed to help the foodservice industry tackle the issue of food waste. 

“United Against Waste” coalitions are currently being established in 74 countries and will consist of local industry experts working together to find effective solutions on reducing food waste. Down the line, Phillips thinks peer influence will be a critical step in the process, and would like to see restaurant operators sharing their success stories with the rest of the operator community.

“Reducing professional food waste is important for a lot of reasons, from financial benefits all the way to making an environmental impact. The Green Restaurant Association notes that food waste comprises about half of the restaurant waste stream and is the largest component of landfills,” says Phillips. “Through the United Against Waste program, we’ve given restaurant operators tips on how to better utilize the food in their kitchen, make their kitchens more efficient, manage their pantries, properly dispose of waste, reduce overall waste and compost.”

She adds, “As members of the food industry, reducing food waste is our responsibility.”

Unilever Food Solutions helps chefs and caterers of all sizes to simplify what goes in the kitchen – without compromising flavor. Their ingredients are some of the staples of professional kitchens in 74 countries around the world, including Knorr, Hellman’s, Lipton and more. Click on this link for more information on UFS’s United Against Waste campaign.