These days, many of us have heard the statistics about the need to feed a growing global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, the 800 million malnourished people in the world, and the substantial amount of food, more than a third, that is wasted in both developed and developing countries. But other than headlines and news stories, what is the connection with the U.S. food consumer?
Working with the Harris Poll, Sealed Air probed U.S. food consumers on their attitudes and behaviors when it comes to food waste and food safety—on a global scale, and within their own household. Surprisingly both food safety and food waste ranked first and second among sustainability concerns when evaluated against drought, climate change, resource scarcity and air pollution. In the case of food waste, nearly two thirds of consumers ranked food waste as a “significant concern”; however, only about a third were concerned about it in their households.
Nearly 90% of consumers understand the need to store food at proper temperatures to preserve quality, yet 85% of consumers had difficulty to know what temperature their refrigerator should maintain. One out of two consumers report they repackage food when they bring it home, even if it is in packaging designed to increase shelf life Nearly three quarters of consumers wish “use by” dates were more prominent and nearly 90% of consumers think packaging waste is worse for the environment than food waste.
What does this all mean? Consumers want to do the right thing when they purchase, store and use food, but there are gaps where consumer education is needed. For example, when consumers were shown a packaged and a naked cucumber, they preferred the unpackaged one. However, upon learning that the packaging increased shelf life from several days to nearly two weeks, consumer preferences changed dramatically, preferring the packaged product three to one.
Our work has shown that most of us think food waste is a concern in other parts of the world—not our own homes, and that it is hard to educate ourselves on all the aspects of food safety and waste. So this is an opportunity, not a problem. It is an opportunity for members of the food supply chain to work together to package, label and inform consumers of how they can make better food choices so that the food they purchase is safe, nutritious and less likely to be wasted.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started! Visit www.sealedair.com/sustainability-report to find out what we are doing to mitigate food waste both with our innovations and our societal programs around the world.