Food waste represents a US$18.2 billion opportunity for grocery retailers in the United States, according to the Retail Food Waste Action Guide. Launched by ReFED, a coalition of business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the U.S., and developed in partnership with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), the guide is designed to help retail businesses implement effective food waste reduction solutions and strategies.
“The Guide is undoubtedly an important new tool in retailers’ efforts to reduce food waste across the entire supply chain,” says Andrew Harig, senior director of sustainability, tax, and trade with the Food Marketing Institute, on behalf of FWRA. “[It] offers a fresh opportunity for companies already deeply engaged on the issue of food waste, as well as those just starting out, to take a 360-degree view of their operations in search of new approaches and solutions.”
The Retail Food Waste Action Guide was created with input from more than 30 expert contributors, including major retailers such as Ahold Delhaize USA, Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods, and industry and nonprofit organizations such as Feeding America and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
The guide aims to provide an overview of national food waste data and statistics and the retail industry’s opportunity to address waste while improving business outcomes. It also presents a “Solutions Landscape” of proven prevention, recovery, and recycling strategies to help the industry prioritize and accelerate waste reduction activities.
Each solution has been evaluated along six dimensions: profit potential, implementation effort, the extent of upfront capital investment required, industry prevalence, diversion potential, and societal economic value. The guide prioritizes prevention solutions first, then recovery, and finally recycling, to maximize the economic, social, and environmental benefits of food waste strategies.
“We’re seeing a major trend of retailers increasing focus on food waste,” explains Chris Cochran, Executive Director of ReFED. “ ReFED is partnering with retailers to put these waste solutions into action.”
According to the guide, retailers are beginning to recognize the financial and reputational value of addressing and reducing food waste in their operations. For example, three of the top ten U.S. grocery retailers—Ahold Delhaize, Kroger, and Walmart—have set a public zero food waste-to-landfill goal. And an increasing number of retailers are joining food waste reduction coalitions and organizations such as the International Consumer Goods Forum, Champions 12.3, and United States Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions.
“There is a major opportunity for the retail industry to lead national food waste reduction initiatives,” write the authors. “The Retail Food Waste Action Guide calls upon every retail business in the U.S. to rise to the challenge and take part in turning food waste from a costly burden into a valuable resource.”