Trend maven Dion Chang on smart food and waste
SMART FOOD. SMART IDEAS. WE’LL SOON BE WONDERING WHY WE’VE BEEN SO STUPID ABOUT WASTING PERFECTLY EDIBLE ITEMS….
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.
BAMBOOZLED BY “BEST BEFORE”
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.
THE RISE OF UGLY
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.