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Best out of waste: Innovative strategies for food companies

In India, the problem of food surplus and waste takes massive proportions, given the population, size of the agriculture and food industry, and the length and breadth of the country.

Best out of waste: Innovative strategies for food companies

Friday March 22, 2024 , 3 min Read

Food waste, rejects, and surplus is a reality of the commercial food industry, where food needs to be produced at scale and distributed across the country to feed the population. 

In India, the problem of food surplus and waste takes massive proportions, given the population, size of the agriculture and food industry, and the length and breadth of the country.

There is an increasing awareness among food companies of the quantum of food waste and how it is handled across their operations. 

This is largely driven by their bold environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and climate goals. Appropriate handling of food and associated packaging waste is a critical need in current times—both to be a responsible company and contribute to the net zero goals of the nation.  

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At food companies, wastage of food happens at three sources—pre-production, production, and post-production of food manufacturing.

  1. Pre-production waste refers to raw material waste, including grains, flour, fruit, vegetables, etc., which may not make it to the cooking process due to issues in quality, food company specifications, surplus, spoilage, etc.
  2. Production waste is collected during the process of manufacturing, including used cooking oil, vegetable cuttings and peels, floor waste, cooking errors, quality rejects, etc.
  3. Post-production waste is seen during the process of distributing the food from the factory to the end consumers, including expiry, near expiry, and damage during transit.

Today, food companies have solutions to harness this food waste at the aforementioned phases of food manufacturing and find economically and environmentally superior solutions, where they can eliminate operating costs and realise value from discarding these items.

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Food2Food and Food2Feed are two fast-growing themes, where food companies can convert their food waste into a valuable resource. 

Food2Food is the single largest focus of food factories to reduce, recover, and reuse food waste that comes out of the food production line. Many companies recover and use food waste, still safe for consumption in their food manufacturing process.

Some recover and make this available for an adjacent food industry, e.g., chocolates that don't meet a particular brand specification but can still be processed and used as an ingredient in an energy bar or other alternative products.

Food2Feed is the fastest-growing option available to food producers. The scope of items that can be used in animal feed allows for a large proportion of food waste and surplus to be used in the manufacturing of animal feed. 

Waste generated in any phase of the food manufacturing and distribution process can become a source for feed production, and therefore, it presents a viable and scalable option for food companies. 

Converting food waste into animal feed is the most environmentally superior option available if the food is not fit for human consumption. Further, companies can generate revenues from the sale of this food waste.

The sustainability of the food industry is a necessary part of the country’s journey towards a sustainable and net zero future. Such innovative and practical solutions are necessary so the industry can make a large-scale transformation to a circular economy and prevent various crises facing the nation, including global warming and nutrition deficit.

Companies need to measure and take stock of the various sources of food waste across their value chain and develop a sustainable solution that can be both climate-positive and financially attractive.

Saket Dave is the Founder and CEO of Wastelink.

Edited by Suman Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)