Executive Update

Food Manufacturers and Retailers Benchmark Food Waste Metrics in First-Ever Study

This month the food industry issued its’ first-ever analysis of food waste data collected directly from food manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers. The study was conducted by consulting firm BSR and commissioned by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), a cross-sector industry initiative led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

The report found that food waste generated through manufacturing tends to be unused ingredients, unfinished product, or trimmings, peels and other unavoidable food waste. The large volume of food and relatively few manufacturing sites create economies of scale that allow manufacturers to recycle waste at a high rate. Conversely, food waste at the retail level tends to consist of finished products more suitable for donation. Numerous locations and diverse product offerings make food waste diversion a significant logistical challenge for many retailers.

Manufacturers and Food Waste

“The primary objective of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance is to reduce the volume of food waste sent to landfill by addressing the root causes of waste, and securing pathways to donate safe food or recycle it for use elsewhere. This new data not only helps us better understand how industry currently is managing food waste, it gives us a benchmark against which we can measure our progress,” said Susan Kujava, industry relations director at General Mills, Inc. and co-chair of the FWRA. Key findings from the manufacturing sector include:

  • Food manufacturers diverted 94.6 percent of food waste generated from landfills to higher uses, such as donation and recycling.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of food waste diverted by manufacturers went to animal feed.
  • The manufacturing sector donated 700 million pounds of safe food that would have otherwise been disposed.

Food Retailers/Wholesalers and Food Waste

“The findings uncovered by BSR are encouraging, but with so many hungry Americans, strained landfills, and the need to conserve our natural resources, it’s clear we can and must do better when it comes to reducing food waste,” said Michael Hewett, director of environmental sustainability programs, Publix Super Markets, Inc. and co-chair of the FWRA. “That’s why identifying the barriers to increased diversion is so important, and will help us develop responsible policy solutions to remove them.” Key findings from the retail/wholesale sector include:

  • Food donation and composting were retailers’ and wholesalers’ primary diversion methods (representing 32 percent and 43 percent of diverted food, respectively).
  • Retailers/wholesalers donated 670 million pounds of safe food that would have otherwise been disposed.
  • The retail/wholesale sector diverted the majority (55.6 percent) of food waste generated from landfills to higher uses.

For a complete copy of the report, titled Analysis of U.S. Food Waste among Food Manufacturers, Retailers and Wholesalers, click here to download.