Caterers make huge savings from cutting food waste

Caterers can expect to save £6 for every £1 they invest in food waste reduction initiatives, according to a new study.

The research carried out by WRAP and the World Resources Institute (WRI) on behalf of the Champions 12.3 initiative found a compelling business case for food service operators serving hospitals, schools, sports arenas and other facilities to reduce food waste in their operations.

Researchers analysed data of pre-consumer waste from 86 catering sites, located across six countries. They found that within one year the sites had reduced food waste by 36% on average, and 64% had recouped their investment.

By the end of year two, 80% of the sites had recouped their investment; while by the end of year three, the average benefit-cost ratio for food waste reduction was more than 6:1.

Key strategies for achieving food waste reduction were to measure the food waste, engage staff, start small, reduce food overproduction, and repurpose excess food, according to the report.

“This report has real-world lessons that can be applied in company kitchens today,” said Liz Goodwin, senior fellow and director, food loss and waste at WRI. “The catering industry has been a leader in piloting creative solutions for reducing pre-consumer food waste. The task now is to expand the pilots and for those in the industry to learn from what others have seen success doing.”

Baxter Storey’s head of sustainable business, Mike Hanson, said the caterer had managed to achieve a 40% reduction in waste since it started segregating, weighing and reporting its food waste in early 2014 through its own online accounts portal. “The ROI is far reaching and not just financial in terms of cost of food; we have also seen huge savings in waste disposal and energy costs for our clients, our margins have improved and we have seen a massive reduction in carbon and other environmental impacts,” said Hanson.

Champions 12.3 is a coalition of governments, businesses, international organisations, research institutions, farmer groups, and civil society that aims to help achieve target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: of cutting in half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level.

Last year the coalition published an overarching report that showed food sites, including caterers, retailers and manufacturers, could reasonably expect to save $14 for every $1 spent on food loss and waste reduction.

It has also published a separate report specifically looking at food waste reduction in hotels with further analyses planned for other sectors of the food industry.

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