Retailers can help shoppers waste less food with improved delivery options, meal planning and more compelling in-store shopping experiences.
Yesterday was World Food Day, and thanks to Feeding America, we were reminded that 41 million people in America don’t get enough to eat, while 72 billion pounds of safe food ends up in our landfills each year. These are startling and unfortunate statistics. And those reading the news have probably noticed that there is no lack of media coverage on this topic, but the question is are consumers really armed with solutions to stop wasting food at home.
The American Chemistry Council found in 2015, the average American throws out $640 of food each year. And the reasons? Sixty-eight percent said they believe that “throwing away food once its expiration date passes, lowers their chances of getting sick from it.” And 59% said the believe that “food waste is necessary to consistently produce fresh, flavorful meals.”
This feedback, along with other studies and trends we have been following, all points to the fact that consumers desire more and more fresh food. And we also have learned that expiration dates or “sell by,” “use by,” and “best before” dates have a large impact on conscious shoppers, even though they may be misunderstood or misrepresented.
What we know is that planning and more frequent shopping leads to smaller baskets, more targeted purchasing, thus less food waste. And on the heels of a food industry movement towards more delivery, meal kits, and online shopping there is way to use this trend and technology to curb consumer food waste.
A report by FMI and Nielsen released this year predicts that in 10 years 70% of consumers will engage in online food shopping, and that 60% will spend a quarter of their food dollars online. This is a glaringly obvious opportunity for retailers to help consumers waste less food, but it will mean that supermarkets will need to focus their attention on perfecting their delivery services. The process needs to be user-friendly (for all ages and levels of experience with technology), and the real key…timely! Some stores, like Kroger, now offer online ordering and drive up pickup services, but the problem is that the order must be placed 24 hours in advance. While Amazon leads the way on quick turnaround, other retailers will need to keep up.
But what about those shoppers that still prefer to shop in a physical store? Or those that like a mix of walking the aisles and shopping online? How do we encourage more frequent shopping for this type of consumer?
It’s all about the shopping experience. As seen in the rise of food halls across the country, the food experience expectations are higher, and retailers need to get more creative with their store environment and tap into the personalization and communal desires of shoppers. The rise in grocerants is proving this theory by attracting shoppers to dine in the store, meaning the place that they shop is not just necessarily always an environment they want to "get in and get out" of as quickly as possible. They feel comfortable and compelled to spend time in the store.
Along with offering shoppers a more pleasurable shopping experience, grocerant chefs and retail dietitians, roles that are growing in importance throughout the food retail arena, can provide tools for shoppers to make meal plans. Those stations in Publix where dishes are prepared and given out as samples are a great example. All ingredients are right there available with a recipe card, so the shopper doesn’t have to walk the store gathering everything they need.
As we search for more solutions to cut down on food waste in America and globally, retailers are in a key position to help shoppers spend their money wisely as well as feel like they are mindfully shopping for people and the planet.