How to Reduce Food Waste in the Supply Chain

Each year, millions of tonnes of perfectly edible food are thrown away. A key contributor to this problem is the supply chain—the complex journey that food takes from the farm to our tables. Issues can arise at any stage, leading to unnecessary waste. But what if your business could not only significantly reduce this waste, but also save money and contribute to environmental sustainability?

In this article, we’ll delve into practical, actionable strategies that your business can employ to make a significant difference in reducing food waste. Keep reading to equip yourself with the knowledge needed to implement impactful solutions.

The Magnitude of the Problem 

When we talk about food waste, the numbers are truly mind-boggling. A report from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) reveals that an estimated 9.5 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK each year, and a significant amount of this waste happens within the supply chain. 

Understanding the scale and impact of food waste is crucial. Financially, it’s draining; the cost of food waste to businesses is counted in the billions each year. But it’s not just about wasted money; it’s also about the longer-term health of our planet and its inhabitants. Food that gets thrown away ends up in landfill sites, where it decays and produces methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. 

So, how can businesses effectively tackle this urgent issue within the supply chain? Let’s explore.

Addressing the Issue: How to Reduce Food Waste in the Supply Chain

Improved Packaging Solutions 

Given the alarming extent and far-reaching consequences of food waste, it’s clear that innovative solutions are desperately needed. 

One of the game-changers in reducing food waste is smart packaging. This isn’t your typical plastic wrap; we’re talking about advanced technology and materials that can significantly extend the shelf life of perishable items. Equipped with sensors, smart packaging can monitor real-time data on factors such as temperature and moisture levels, thereby preventing spoilage and reducing waste. This data-driven approach not only reduces waste but also enhances overall efficiency and safety.

While smart packaging is indeed smart for reducing food waste, there’s another aspect we can’t ignore: sustainability. The goal is to minimise food waste without ending up with a mountain of non-recyclable material. 

Good news – there are increasingly more options for smart, sustainable packaging. Think biodegradable plastics or reusable containers that manage to be both eco-friendly and effective in extending food shelf-life. 

Companies like Thergis offer tailored thermal packaging solutions that are both smart and sustainable. These specialised packages can extend the shelf life of perishable goods, reducing waste while still being eco-friendly. 

For an in-depth look at how Thergis’ liners and reusable gel ice packs can enhance transit efficiency, check out our article on The Power of Liners and Reusable Gel Ice Packs.

Optimising Transportation 

The journey from farm to fork is a crucial phase where a lot can go wrong, especially when it comes to food spoilage. That’s why efficient route planning is more than just a cost-saver; it’s a waste reducer. By using advanced algorithms to find the most direct paths, companies can minimise the time that perishable items spend in transit. Shorter routes mean fresher food, and fresher food means less waste.

It’s not just about speed; it’s also about maintaining the right conditions while you’re zooming down the motorway. Temperature-controlled vehicles are an absolute must for transporting perishable items. These specialised vehicles help maintain a consistent internal environment, ensuring that food items don’t spoil due to temperature fluctuations. To understand the significance of temperature-controlled logistics, you can read our article on Cold Chain Logistics.

By smartly planning routes and maintaining the right temperature during transit, we can make a significant dent in the amount of food that ends up being wasted.

Real-Time Inventory Management

When it comes to tackling food waste, real-time inventory management systems are proving invaluable. These tools offer an immediate overview of your stock levels, identify what’s running low, and indicate what doesn’t need replenishing immediately, thus ensuring you only procure what is truly needed. 

A prime example of a company providing such innovative solutions is Nory. Specialising in automated and real-time performance insights, Nory equips businesses—from CFOs to chefs—with essential data. Their platform encompasses everything from menu sales and labour productivity to limited-time offers and, crucially, food waste management.

What sets Nory apart is its AI-driven approach. Unlike conventional systems, Nory’s technology learns your business’s unique needs and adapts accordingly. By predicting hourly sales with an impressive 90-95% accuracy, the platform enables accurate demand forecasting. This ensures that your team is empowered to make optimal operational decisions daily. The result? A marked reduction in unaccounted waste, sometimes by as much as 50%.

Thanks to real-time tracking of gross profit and waste, companies like Nory are geared to help businesses significantly curb their waste levels. This not only brings peace of mind that your business and margins are well-managed but also contributes to a more sustainable food supply chain.

Expiry Date Reforms 

Another angle to approach this problem is to consider how we price and label food items. One nifty way to avoid food waste is dynamic pricing. This involves reducing the prices of items as they approach their expiry date. It’s a win-win: customers get a bargain, and businesses reduce waste. It also prompts quicker sales, preventing food from going to waste just because it’s a day or two away from the “use by” date.

Confused about ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labels? You’re not alone. Educating consumers on what these terms mean can go a long way in reducing food waste. 

‘Best before’ is about quality, not safety, meaning food is still good to eat but might not taste as great. ‘Use by’, on the other hand, is the safety deadline. Knowing the difference can help people make smarter choices about what to keep and what to toss.

Collaboration and Transparency 

Two heads are better than one, especially when it comes to cutting down on food waste. By sharing data, suppliers, retailers, and transporters can better understand where waste is occurring and take steps to fix it. This joined-up approach makes the entire supply chain more efficient and can help everyone involved save both resources and money. 

Want proof that your efforts to reduce food waste are paying off? There are third-party certifications, such as Ecolabel Index and LRQA that can give you a gold star for your hard work. These not only add credibility to your efforts but can also make your brand more appealing to eco-conscious consumers.

Consumer Awareness 

While businesses have a pivotal role to play in reducing food waste, consumers represent the final piece of the puzzle in achieving meaningful minimisation. The collective power of informed consumer choices can’t be underestimated, and it’s essential for rounding out any comprehensive strategy against food waste.

When people understand the impact of their choices, they’re more likely to make responsible decisions. Businesses can lend a hand by educating consumers through packaging labels, social media campaigns, or in-store information. The more we all know, the less we throw away.

The Takeaway: A Unified Strategy for Food Waste Reduction

In the quest to curb food waste, every cog in the supply chain machine counts – whether it’s optimising transportation routes, adopting real-time inventory management, or educating the customer. A single strategy is a drop in the ocean; a unified approach is a tidal wave of change. By incorporating intelligent packaging, efficient logistics, real-time data analytics, and consumer awareness into your operational ethos, you don’t just cut costs and waste—you’re paving the way for a sustainable future in food distribution. 

So why wait? Explore Thergis’ services today to transform your supply chain and take a significant step towards sustainability.

To find out more call our expert team on 0115 931 6969 or contact us for more details.