In a recent report from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), researchers determined that consumer attitudes and behaviors surrounding food packaging could help reduce household food waste. The report is supported by the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), The Packaging Federation, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the Kent Waste Partnership, and the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
With so many invested parties, the food industry clearly recognizes the importance of packaging, but consumers have yet to catch on. This report reinforces that consumers understand that packaging is an important factor in transporting the food to the grocery store and keeping it fresh there, but only 13% of consumers think it plays the same role at home.
Richard Swannell, Director of Design and Waste Prevention at WRAP, clearly understands the scope of the problem. “Food waste is an enormous problem that needs tackling throughout the whole supply chain. With 7.2mt of waste occurring in the home, our latest report has investigated consumer awareness around packaging and how storing food effectively can help reduce that waste."
Apparently, there is a widespread belief that keeping food in the original package leads it to spoil more quickly. Only 22% of people look at storage guidance on the package, guidance that would maximize life and freshness in the home. A prime example is the storage of bread: There is a popular myth that storing bread in the refrigerator keeps it fresher. In truth, it actually helps the bread to go stale six times faster. Bread lasts up to two weeks longer in the original packaging. Alice Ellison of the British Retail Consortium adds, “I hope this research helps to end the demonisation of packaging.”
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After price, freshness and how long food lasts are the most important factors for consumers. Throwing away unused food costs UK Consumers £6.7 billion a year (£270 for the average household). This suggests that food retailers, manufacturers and their trade associations need to raise awareness with consumers about existing innovations in packaging.
With any luck, through the “Fresher for Longer” campaign, this report and the food industry will be able to make a difference. This knowledge is all culminating in a large-scale ad campaign.
Adam Elman, head of Plan A Delivery at Marks & Spencer noted, “By reducing the amount of packaging we use and ensuring its easily recyclable, we’ve worked hard to make it as easy as possible for our customers to live more sustainably. Packaging plays an important role in protecting the quality and freshness of our food, which is why we feature on-pack storage advice and continue to introduce innovative packaging that keeps food fresher for longer. We’re delighted to be part of this new campaign, which is a win-win for our customers — not only will it help them to keep their food fresh, but it will reduce their food waste and save them money, too.”