Toyota Connect/Lexus Life - - CONTENTS - Dion Chang is the founder of Flux Trends: www.flux­trends.com

Trend maven Dion Chang on smart food and waste


While you’re read­ing this, there’s no doubt some­thing in your fridge that’s ap­proach­ing its “best be­fore” date, which you’ll in­evitably throw away. We do it all the time, but aware­ness of just how much food we waste is start­ing to sur­face.

The Food & Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (FAO), the United Na­tions agency fight­ing global hunger, re­ports that one-third of food pro­duced for hu­man con­sump­tion is wasted glob­ally. This trans­lates to a stag­ger­ing 1,3 bil­lion tons of food wasted ev­ery year.


The food waste hap­pens through­out the sup­ply chain, from farms to house­holds, where con­sumers are swayed by “sell by” or “best be­fore” dates. Or they re­ject “ugly food”: per­fectly edi­ble items that are avoided be­cause they’re nat­u­rally mis­shapen or slightly bruised. Farm­ers dump them. Super­mar­kets and res­tau­rants re­ject them. Con­sumers avoid them sim­ply be­cause they ad­here to an ir­ra­tional no­tion that all pro­duce should be per­fectly formed.

The global Ugly Food Move­ment started in 2014, which was of­fi­cially des­ig­nated the Euro­pean Year Against Food Waste, but it’s been a mas­sive task con­vinc­ing peo­ple that im­per­fect­look­ing pro­duce is per­fectly safe and edi­ble. The word “ugly” had to be re­placed by a eu­phemism to lure scep­ti­cal con­sumers. In France, these foods are re­ferred to as “in­glo­ri­ous”. In Canada, they’re called “nat­u­rally im­per­fect”, while in the UK, they’re la­belled “wonky”. Four years later, the world’s re­al­is­ing that “ugly foods” are not only gen­er­ally bet­ter-tast­ing, but also cheaper, as farm­ers are only too happy to sell pro­duce they’d pre­vi­ously have de­stroyed.


As a busi­ness trend, com­pa­nies are be­gin­ning to cap­i­talise on this shift in con­sumer mind­set. Flash­food­box, an Amer­i­can fresh pro­duce de­liv­ery com­pany, added an Ugly Pro­duce

Box to its prod­uct of­fer­ing. The com­pany sim­ply ap­proached its sup­pli­ers and asked if it could buy pro­duce the super­mar­kets wouldn’t take.

Canada’s largest food re­tailer, Loblaw, launched a line of “Nat­u­rally Im­per­fect” fruits and veg­gies un­der its no-name house brand, which now of­fers 14 va­ri­eties of im­per­fect pro­duce, both fresh and frozen.

In May this year, UK su­per­mar­ket chain

Tesco an­nounced plans to re­move “best be­fore” dates from al­most 70 fruit and veg­etable prod­ucts in an ef­fort to re­duce food waste.

And in Hol­land, an in­ge­nious part­ner­ship be­tween Al­bert Heijn, one of the coun­try’s largest su­per­mar­ket chains, and an en­tre­pre­neur named Bart Roetert has re­sulted in a restau­rant called In­stock, which serves meals made en­tirely out of sur­plus food from the su­per­mar­ket chain.

But soon the In­ter­net of Things will bring tech­nol­ogy into the food waste equa­tion. Ovie is a Chicago, Usa-based tech start-up that’s launched Smarter­ware, a range of fridge con­tain­ers which have smart tags: glow­ing discs that change colour as an ex­piry date’s ap­proach­ing.

Each time you add food to your fridge, the tag up­loads the new items to the cloud. An al­go­rithm man­ages the fresh­ness and each tag changes colour as it de­te­ri­o­rates. If you don’t look in­side your fridge, you’ll re­ceive an alert on your phone, and, if re­quired, you’ll be sent recipe ideas based on the food in your fridge.

Fancy. Smart!

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