Food waste is making headlines across the globe. In the United States alone, 31 percent – or 133 billion pounds – of the available food supply went uneaten in 2010, according to the USDA. Across the pond, the European Union declared 2014 the European Year against Food Waste. For companies working in the food space, this is not only a major sustainability problem but an issue that also impacts profitability and efficiency. Now, a few companies are taking new approaches to reduce waste, harness technology and inspire behavior change to narrow the margin between what we produce and what’s thrown in the trash.

Ugly can be tasty, according to French grocery chain, Intermarché. Less-than-perfect looking, but perfectly good, fruits and vegetables are often avoided by consumers but Intermarché’s “The Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign demonstrates through videos and in-store signage that a “Grotesque Apple,” a “Ridiculous Potato” and a “Failed Lemon” taste just as good as their more beautiful counterparts. To further prompt behavior change, the Inglorious produce is displayed front and center and at a 30 percent markdown. The campaign has been so successful, the grocer found it hard to keep the produce in stock, resulting in a1.2 ton average sale per store during the campaign’s first two days.

For its part, Chipotle helped sponsor the Hack/Dining hackathon, which brought together hackers to “re-engineer the future of food.” The tech whizzes identified an unexpected opportunity to save resources: “Burrito Creep” – when diners’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs when ordering, resulting in wasted food. In fact, a one-day survey found nearly 60 percent of customers did not finish their food when dining at Chipotle. The hackers created a patch to Chipotle’s existing app that would make the online ordering process more arduous to over-stuff items, while simultaneously incentivizing consumers to “slim down” orders through points towards future orders.

By including consumers along the journey from problem to solution through education and incentives, Chipotle and Intermarché were able to change perceptions, processes and ultimately, behavior. Each program uncovered a potential for impact, taking a 133 billion pound problem and turning it into a platform for opportunity.


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