Food Waste Challenge Provides Market Opportunities for Innovators

January 21, 2015

CHICAGO—Approximately 133 billion pounds of food produced in the United States went uneaten in 2010 (Buzby, 2014). This adds up to a 31 percent food loss at both the retail and consumer levels and has far-reaching social, economic, and environmental ramifications (NRDC, 2012). In the December issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), contributing writers Elise Golan, PhD, director of sustainable development, Office of the Chief Economist, USDA and Jean C. Buzby, PhD, chief of the Diet, Safety and Health Economic Branch in the USDA Economic Research Service write about how food waste in the U.S. represents a market opportunity worth over $160 billion for innovators who can reduce this waste and its impact.  

Innovations that reduce the creation of food waste include ways to extend product quality and shelf life, improve processing and distribution efficiency and create new products from agriculture and processing leftovers. Examples include using nanotechnology in beer bottles, food storage containers, and refrigerator compartments to slow down spoilage of produce. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Research Service (ARS) developed a small-scale peanut dryer and sheller for use in remote areas in Haiti where as much as 50 percent of the peanut crop is usually lost due to poor moisture control.

Innovations to recover wholesome food for donation include connection technologies, tools for measuring the value of food donations and tax benefits, and new concepts like Trader Joe’s ex-president Doug Rauch’s project featured on FutureFood 2050 about selling imperfect and expired food. A new web-based service is helping small-scale producers inform thousands of people almost instantaneously about surplus food, events, discount sales, and freebies.

In order to keep food out of landfills, innovators have devised ways to recycle food for animal feed, compost, and energy generation. While turning food waste into animal feed has been a practice used for years, it’s recently become more widespread in restaurants, hotels, schools, nursing homes, and grocery stores.

View the full article in Food Technology here
Editor’s Note: View an infographic on food waste here

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