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Reducing food waste

Better collaboration with farmers, processors and consumers could help retailers reduce the huge amount of wasted food, says Harvard Business Review article by three Cambridge Judge academics.

Reducing food waste

A four-pronged strategy could help food retailers reduce the huge amount of food that is wasted each year, according to a new article in Harvard Business Review authored by three Cambridge Judge Business School academics.

Between a third and a half of all food that is produced is wasted globally, says the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, even as food security becomes a more pressing issue as the world’s population grows from 7.6 billion to an expected 9.8 billion people by 2050.

Retailers can both reduce waste and remain competitive if they strengthen retail partnerships with food suppliers and connect with customers in new ways, says the article co-authored by Yasemin Kor, Beckwith Professor of Management Studies; Jaideep Prabhu, Professor of Marketing; and Mark Esposito, Research Fellow at the Circular Economy Centre at Cambridge Judge.

Retailers could help reduce waste by taking these four steps, says the article entitled “How large food retailers can help solve the food waste crisis”:

  1. Upgrade inventory systems using new technology. This can help food move directly from warehouses to retail floors without intermediaries slowing down the system.
  2. Partner with farmers. About seven per cent of produce is left unharvested in fields every year in the US, and this could be reduced through greater collaboration between farmers and retailers.
  3. Change traditional store practices that contribute to waste. These include insistence on perfect-looking vegetables and misinterpretation of ‘best by’ dates in selling foods.
  4. Working with consumers. Retailers can better educate consumers to cut household food waste, including ways to use leftovers.

“Food retailers have a lot to gain from designing a circular strategy to reduce food waste across the supply chain, but they aren’t expected to do this alone,” the article concludes.