As part of its #Envision2030 initiative, the United Nations has set a goal of cutting global food waste at the retail and consumer level in half by 2030.
In support of this critical initiative, the Norwegian government and Norway’s food industry have teamed up to ensure that goal is met.
In developed countries like Norway (and the US and Canada), consumer and retail food waste is a huge problem. That problem is driven by a number of factors, including:
Preference for “pretty” fruits and vegetables, resulting in less aesthetically pleasing produce being thrown out;
Reluctance to sell/purchase food past its “best before” date (note that “best before” refers only to food quality and not safety);
Contractual agreements between food vendors and suppliers that result in more food being produced than is needed in order to ensure agreements are met;
Consumer over-purchasing and bulk buying, resulting in excess food spoiling;
Cooking too much and not using up leftovers;
With Norway’s new partnership, the country is tackling that problem head-on with campaigns and strategies designed to limit or end these practices.
Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit visits a redistribution centre.
Photo courtesy of Lise Åserud/NTB Scanpix
“Best by”, “sell by” and “use by” all have different meanings. Often times, food is perfectly safe to eat near, on or even after these dates. Although you wouldn’t necessarily purchase raw meat or seafood past its “use by” date, there’s usually nothing wrong with dry and packaged goods. They may be a bit stale but are perfectly safe to consume.
Many Norwegian supermarkets now offer these items to consumers at reduced prices. There’s even a grocery store called Best Før - Like Godt dedicated exclusively to selling these items. And it seems many consumers are more than happy to take advantage of the price reductions.
As mentioned above, there are some foods that simply cannot be guaranteed safe to eat past a certain date. But many foods are just fine.
To tackle waste caused by confusion around these labels, foods that are safe to consume past the manufacturer's promise of quality now use the term “best before” instead of “use by” in order to more accurately reflect its meaning. The manufacturer promises its products will taste best before a certain date, but those products are still perfectly edible (and often just as tasty) afterwards.
The idea behind bulk buying is that you save money and create less packaging waste. However, the reality is that bulk buying leads to increased food loss. Consumers purchase more than they need in order to “save money”, but the food is not being eaten before it spoils and too much is ending up in the bin.
In Norway, campaigns are encouraging retailers to stop promoting 2-for-1, 3-for-1 (and so on) style deals in order to reduce over-purchasing. It’s important to note that they are not discouraging sales on food, but specifically, sales that require a consumer to purchase more than they need or want in order to get the deal.
Understanding when, where and why food is wasted is a critical step in reducing that waste. As part of the Norwegian agreement, retailers have committed to measuring and analysing food loss and using that data to develop their own strategies for reducing waste.
There are many ways to reduce waste, but they are not one-size-fits-all solutions. What works in one home or grocery store may not make sense in others. Encouraging grocery stores to understand their unique situation and find solutions that fit their business is an important step towards not only reducing food waste but making more people aware of how food waste happens.
Two new app platforms have also emerged in Norway to help tackle food loss. One, called Bestfør.no, not to be confused with the previously mentioned Best Før - Like Godt grocery store, aims to help retailers identify food nearing its “best by” date so the store can act quickly to reduce prices or donate the food.
Another is called Foodlist and works to connect grocery stores directly to consumers for quick purchasing, or to charities that will take the donation.
Like FoodHero, these platforms are leveraging technology in ways that make it easier (and fun!) for both food retailers and consumers to put a serious dent in our global food waste problem.
Although what’s happening in Norway is a concerted effort between the government and the food industry, both consumers and food retailers across the globe do not need such an initiative to start making a difference. There is no 2-for-1 deal on planets. We only get this one. Let’s keep it clean, people.
Learn more about how Norway is reducing food waste:
Download our App Save $5 on your first order
Thank you for your interest in FoodHero and in the food waste cause.
We’re not quite ready to help you save money on perfectly fresh surplus food.
We’ll let you know as soon as we’re launching!