Food waste, the climate crisis and weirdly-shaped vegetables

If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third-biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. In spite of a global hunger crisis, one study has estimated that 40% of food is wasted.

One contributing factor to this waste is the expectations of consumers. Or, rather, the supermarket chains and what they believe those expectations to be.

Fruit & veg goes through a selection process before reaching our shelves. Those deemed to be oddly-shaped do not usually make the grade. There have been some small-scale movements to change this but the argument is beginning to gather more pace.

This year’s record-breaking weather conditions are taking their toll. Heatwaves and droughts have resulted in smaller, wonkier fruit and vegetables. The sort that tends to find the ‘reject’ pile.

Farmers are urging shoppers not to turn their backs on the oddly-shaped produce. If not, the scarcity of the more “perfect” produce will result in a price hike for consumers.

“Consumers have been conditioned to believe that a potato looks a certain way, [but] we need to be more relaxed about appearance,” said Tom Bradshaw, Vice-President of the National Farmers Union for England and Wales.

The alternative (throwing away ill-formed produce) results in a global mountain of food waste which is becoming a nonsensical scenario in the age of sustainability and climate-consciousness.

Fortunately, it seems that stores are taking notice of the situation. Global weather patterns, the impact on farmers and the avoidance of passing-through greater costs to consumers are all affecting a shift in behaviour.

The British Retail Consortium – which represents supermarkets – says stores are aware of the problems caused by the dry weather and will support farmers.

This is just the start, though and more can certainly be done. A survey of British consumers states that 87% of shoppers would be perfectly happy with produce that is less than perfect in its shape.

With extreme weather conditions expected to become the ‘new normal’, enterprises are stepping in to do more in the fight against food waste.

Producers of ready meals are buying-up traditionally-wasted produce, supermarket chains are being more open-minded in their purchasing and water-efficiency solutions are being devised. Just a few examples of innovation in this area.

Surely there is much more that can be done, though.

At chiefmachers, we are always on the hunt for exciting, innovative ventures. The businesses seeking to change the world.

Included within this effort is certainly businesses who are committed to feeding the world without it costing the earth.

We’re passionate about being a part of the solution. In order to get there, we believe that there’s a paradigm shift needed so that we move away from needless waste and towards a more efficient, more productive society in the near future.

If you are a young business, tackling the food waste crisis and seeking sustainable growth, we can help. Equally, if you are an expert, executive-level talent in the food & drinks industry, seeking a new venture to work with, we can be your connection. As executive search experts, we can help businesses to deliver growth. Interested? Please get in touch. Let’s change the world together!