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Food Waste: A Global Diner Concern

31 January 2012

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Nearly half of U.S. diners say they would spend more for meals at foodservice locations that limit food waste. Unilever Food Solutions’ World Menu Report sparks a new program and website to encourage sharing of best practices within the foodservice industry.

Unilever Food Solutions’ latest World Menu Report, “Sustainable Kitchens: Reducing Food Waste,” demonstrates that the issue of food waste hits a nerve with U.S. consumers who eat out at least once a week. Nearly 80% of U.S. diners surveyed express concern about the amount of food thrown away every day in restaurants, cafeterias and other away-from-home venues. A single restaurant in the United States can produce 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food waste in a year depending on the size of the establishment, according to an extensive analysis of restaurants by the Boston-based Green Restaurant Association (GRA).

The global report, commissioned by Unilever Food Solutions, surveyed 4,000 diners in Brazil, China, Germany, Poland, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States to measure consumers’ attitudes toward the foodservice industry’s food-waste disposal methods and sustainability practices. The report’s focus on sustainability highlights one of the fundamental initiatives that Unilever Food Solutions is dedicated to addressing through its enhanced consultation services, specifically its “Your Kitchen” service. Through this service area, Unilever Food Solutions works with restaurant chefs and operators and provides tools to help chefs run efficient kitchens that help them work smarter rather than harder.

“The findings of the World Menu Report demonstrate that the spotlight on food waste is extending from in home to out of home,” says Kara Phillips, channel marketing manager at Unilever Food Solutions. “Research has shown that a high proportion of food wasted in professional kitchens is generated at the preparation stage, so we have a role to play in helping chefs and operators to reduce these waste levels.”

Food waste comprises about half of a restaurant’s waste stream and is the largest component of landfills. The World Menu Report findings noted that 72% are concerned with the environmentally friendly disposal of food waste and more than 60% felt that there should be more transparency about the sustainable practices of restaurants.

The World Menu Report also noted that reducing food waste can provide financial benefits for operators, including a reduction in disposal costs and increased kitchen efficiency.  In addition, nearly half of the surveyed U.S. diners say they would spend more for meals at restaurants and foodservice locations that are taking steps to limit food waste.

With Americans spending 49% of their food budget in the restaurant community, the impact restaurant chefs, operators and their guests can make on reducing food waste is very significant. As part of a global effort, Unilever Food Solutions North America is kicking off a nationwide program, “United Against Waste,” designed to help the foodservice industry tackle the issue of food waste by creating awareness, providing tools and resources and sharing best practices with operators in all sectors of the industry.

“Small, incremental steps can result in big differences—and we need to do more than simply spark debate about this topic,” says Steven Jilleba, CMC, executive chef, Unilever Food Solutions North America. “As an industry, we need to look at stock management, menu flexibility, portion sizes and many other elements involved in the journey from farm to fork in order to be able to begin tackling this problem.”

Chefs, operators and foodservice educators looking to improve their sustainability practices and reduce food waste at their restaurants and schools can visit www.unileverfoodsolutions.us/reducewaste. Through this website, professionals may:

  • View the full World Menu Report: “Sustainable Kitchens: Reducing Food Waste”
  • Access tips and best practices for reducing food waste
  • Join the “United Against Waste” campaign and receive an informational packet that includes campaign decals for restaurant entrance doors or windows and back-of-house food-waste receptacles to show participation and a commitment to tackling the issue
  • Request a one-on-one consultation with a Unilever Food Solutions representative to help pinpoint specific sustainability practices they can implement
  • Submit their food-waste reduction best practices and success stories

Photo: © Supertrooper | Dreamstime.com, http://www.dreamstime.com/foodgroup-vegetables-imagefree9046917