Stop Food Waste Day: Top tips on how to tackle excess food going to waste

Did you know that around a third of the food produced on Earth goes to waste? It’s a crazy statistic isn’t it considering the amount of people going hungry across the world or using food banks.

Stop Food Waste Day on April 28th aims to teach people ways to reduce food waste. Not only is food waste terrible when so many are struggling to put food on the table each day, but with the rising cost of living showing no signs of slowing down, people are learning that they simply can’t afford to be wasteful in the current climate.

In the UK alone, we throw away around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year – even though 8.4 million people in the UK are in food poverty. This is a shocking statistic and goes to show that with the right resources, help and education around food waste, we could eradicate hunger in our country once and for all.

As a food business, there are many ways in which you could join in the fight to tackle food waste. In March 2022, inflation reached its highest recorded level since 1992, and a study by the Office for National Statistics found that a quarter of UK households are struggling to pay bills such as fuel and food.

Despite this, research from retail and shopper marketing agency, Savvy found that the cost of living is causing shoppers to prioritise events and quality together time following two years of Covid restrictions, meaning street food events, meet ups at bars, cafes and restaurants between friends and family are still remaining popular following a pent-up demand amongst consumers to get back out and socialise after the numerous lockdowns.

This is a positive sign for the hospitality industry. In fact, the street food revolution swept across the UK in the wake of the last recession following strong demand for high quality, affordable food options at events in which people could socialise. The cost of living crisis however does pose a serious issue for independent businesses struggling to keep up with inflation. In this article, we put forward some simple ways in which you could ease the pressure on your business.

Reducing portion sizes

A triple whammy consisting of inflation following Covid-19, Brexit and the war in Ukraine has led to tripling petrol costs, key ingredients being harder and more expensive to source and loan repayments hitting businesses.

We’ve been hearing from many members looking to cut costs in any way possible, and one popular way to do so is to reduce portion sizes but keep the cost of dishes the same. Brexit has led to a shortage of some ingredients in the supply chain and tax increases and the fact that many businesses are having to pay back Covid loans means that savings are having to be made within business operations.

If you’re noticing customers failing to finish portions or are trading at street food events where visitors often sample a multitude of dishes from different stands, then reducing portion sizes may be the way to go. Chips and rice as a side dish are another popular way to bulk out a dish but keep costs down, as well as charging a little extra for condiments and non-dairy alternatives.

If you’re looking to make changes to menu prices, now is the time to do it. Many businesses have been unwilling to push cost of living increases on to customers, but as long as quality isn’t affected, many consumers will be understanding of a small increase in costs if they are still getting the same great taste and service they’ve become accustomed to in independent settings.

Using ingredients that are in season

This might sound like an obvious recommendation, but round the clock global trading has meant we have become accustomed to buying bananas, avocados and exotic ingredients all year round, so much so, they’ve become a staple part of many a British person’s diet. What we often fail to remember, is that the cost of shipping products from abroad is having an impact on our wallet, and the environmental footprint of our business.

Some of the benefits of buying seasonal foods include better taste because they’ve been harvested at the right time, having a higher nutritional value thanks to there being little or no transportation required, and being cheaper due to the lack of travelling and storage costs involved.

Many of our members pride themselves on the fact that they source all their ingredients locally. Not only are they supporting their local economy and keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum, but many agree that customers are attracted to the fact that they are sourcing the freshest and most sustainable ingredients possible for their dish.

Farmers markets host an abundance of in season stock so it might be worth popping down to your local one to get a good idea of the wide range of options available to you. One thing that has become apparent in recent years, is that the general population – specifically Millennials and Gen Z – are increasingly looking to support brands that care for the planet and keep waste to a minimum. Buying British has become cool again.

There is no Planet B

Talking of saving the planet, sustainability is top of the agenda for companies across the globe at the moment. The younger generations especially are taking an active interest in the harm we humans have been doing to the planet over the past few decades, making sustainability and carbon footprint common buzzwords when it comes to today’s marketing material.

Gen Z are more inquisitive than ever when it comes to where you source your produce and how far it’s had to travel. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of vegans in Great Britain quadrupled to over 600,000, or 1.21% of the population, and according to a survey by Beko, the majority of the people in the UK (88%) feel a personal responsibility to help the environment.

Using sustainable food packaging from companies such as BioPak will get you in the good books of today’s carbon conscious consumers, and as an NCASS member, you can advantage of exclusive discounts on products. Offering a discount for customers who turn up at your business with their own refillable mugs or bowls is one way to help, as is ridding your business of single use plastic.

A story often brings customers to your stand, so if you have sustainable practices and care for the environment, shout about it! People want to know where you sourced your meat and veg. Was it from a local farm that allows animals to roam free? Are your vegetables free from pesticides and grown in a field down the road? Do you donate to environmental causes whenever a certain item is sold off the menu? Whatever you’re doing, customers always appreciate knowing where their food is from, so tell them.

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure

We appreciate that sometimes preventing food waste is an impossible task, especially when you’ve prepared enough meals for hundreds of people at an event before rain calls an early end to proceedings.

One way to prevent such waste is to make sure you are cooking to order. Before attending an event, get the lowdown from the organisers on footfall, so you can get a good estimate of how much preparation you’ll need to do beforehand. Cooking to order is one way to prevent waste, but we know that if an event fails to go as successfully as you’d hoped, you may be left with tonnes of ingredients with a short shelf life.

In such cases, there are many third-party companies that would be willing to take your extra bulk off your hands and put it to good use in soup kitchens and at food banks across the area.

Companies such as 8th Plate serve the big festivals, whilst apps such as Olio and Too Good To Go allow food businesses to sell their surplus waste at a reduced cost. It’s a win-win that helps you, the consumer and the planet.

The concept is simple. As a business, you simply update the app to show how much surplus food you have to sell. Customers search the app for local stores, purchase the food via the app, then collect it at the time you set. Rather than listing individual portions of food, you’ll fill a ‘Magic Bag’ with food that hasn’t sold in time, setting a reduced price that’s fair for you and the customer. NCASS members can sign up to Too Good To Go and pay no joining fee. Find out more here.

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