June 2014: Food Waste, We are Fed Up, and a Gladson Case Study
Food Waste Isn't a Problem. It's an Opportunity.
We've all heard the scary stats. 40% of food grown in the United States is wasted. Consumers throw away an estimated 25% of what they bring home or buy at restaurants. 64 billion pounds of surplus food is dumped into landfills valued at $165 billion a year at a disposal cost of $750 million. An American family of four dumps $1,600 of food a year.
An eclectic mix of 350 growers, investors, geeks and entrepreneurs debated food waste last week at an AgTech event hosted by The Mixing Bowl at Stanford University and brought some fresh new perspectives. We've synthesized some of the discussion, and reflected on what it could mean for the produce industry in the (near) future.
- Don't waste it … sell it. Tim Childs, co-founder of TCHO Chocolate and now CEO of stealth company, Treasure Brands, talked about converting off-cuts and unsalable produce into valuable, nutrient rich feedstock for a radically new business. By re-imagining food 'waste' as a valuable raw material, radically new solutions become possible.
- UBER for excess food. Several organizations (like FoodShift) are tackling the problem of matching companies with excess food with organizations that can take it (like food banks, shelters). 12th Grader Kiran Sridhar created an app for that. WasteNoFood lets retailers or restaurants post inventory of excess food, and organizations within 25 miles will get an instant text: first come, first served!
- The Price is Right. The current supply chain is not designed to efficiently match demand with available supply. Retailers plan far ahead and try hard to not run out. When prices are high, quality goes down. Online and direct-to-home delivery models tied into real-time inventory and quality measurement could change this dynamic. Great quality product can be signaled to shoppers when they place an order, whereas lower quality product or excess supply can be priced to move. Shoppers could choose to buy produce by weight, and have someone else choose the mix for them (much as CSAs do today). Store-pickers (like Instacart and Google Express) could be capturing real time quality data to inform dynamic pricing.
- Live Long and Prosper. A lot of effort has been focused on increasing shelf life by reducing temperature excursions, scrubbing ethylene, controlling respiration, and clarifying best by dates. In addition to these technical solutions, there are still many days to be taken out of the supply chain with better inventory management and rotation. Retailers shrink less produce and shoppers get more time to enjoy it. Win-win.
The PMA is also tackling the food waste question – stay tuned for that report!
Want to see examples of how we're using technology to improve supply chain visibility today? Contact us.
The new docu-movie "Fed Up" (from the makers of An Inconvenient Truth) looks into causes of the obesity epidemic in America – and points a sugar-coated finger at the processed food industry.
It was also a 100-minute advertisement for the fresh produce industry.
We all know that fruits and veggies are healthy, that we're supposed to eat 5 a day, and that given the choice most folks would choose healthy food over unhealthy food. So how is the processed food industry winning the war?
Fed Up offered some answers. Processed foods are cheaper and more convenient. Manufacturers use sophisticated marketing tricks to get people to buy their products. They are spending buckets of money on research to tailor food to American's palate and making sure that the box design, messaging, and presentation is optimized. Oh, and added sugar is 6 times more addictive than cocaine, apparently.
There is hope! If movies like Fed Up get more shoppers asking retailers for healthy choices, then produce is ready to fill that need. Produce marketers can proactively reach out to health-focused segments to take back the message of healthy-eating, healthy-snacking, and convenience. Research tools like HarvestMark allow you to reach people at the point of consideration to give valuable feedback about why they are or are not buying your product.
Email us and we can give you a demo of how we can help you understand your consumer and help you gain market-share.
Gladson Case Study
Gladson, the provider of the most up-to-date database of consumer packaged goods product information, has created a Case Study about our partnership. By leveraging their database, HarvestMark is the most comprehensive, accurate, and trusted personalized nutrition app on the market. When GS1, the global standard in barcodes evaluated the effectiveness of food scanning apps, they found that only about 25% of scans returned a result. HarvestMark boasts an 83% successful scan rate and we are working every day to increase coverage.
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