Trash or treat: the food waste conversation goes mainstream for Halloween

By Mallika Basu

Wednesday 30th October

If you need yet another reason to be spooked this Halloween, look no further than your grisly carved pumpkin. The successful import of this autumnal celebration from across the pond also puts the issue of food waste in the spotlight as the festive season begins. If this doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, it should.

The Guardian reports that more than 8 million pumpkins, that’s 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin flesh, will be wasted because people don’t use them, according to new research by the stock cube brand Knorr and the charity Hubbub. And before you know it, we’ll have mountains of Christmas food to contend with.

The topic of food waste has been high on the news agenda for years, driven by conscious consumerism and increasingly vocal campaigners. In a visual stunt, the Small Change, Big Difference campaign recently flooded the entrance of a residential home in London with seasonal fruits and vegetables to demonstrate that more than half of all food waste produced in the UK every year comes from households. Hiding behind your food bins is no longer an option.

With more consciousness comes opportunities for companies and brands to demonstrate leadership and showcase innovation in the area. Food waste charity WRAP has made great strides with research charity IGD in this area with its Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. Industry involvement has exceeded their first-year target of 125 UK food businesses, with 156 committing to measure and report their food waste data by September 2019.

Supermarkets have shown great appetite to solve the problem. Tesco was one of the front runners, as the very first to start reporting its food waste figures in 2013, but other food retailers are not far behind. All major supermarkets have signed up to the Government’s Step up to the Plate campaign to halve food waste by 2030. Despite reservations and some cynicism from environmental groups and charities, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

FMCG businesses are not to be left behind. Unilever, for example, sends most of its food waste for reuse, recycling and energy generation. Elsewhere, commitments are being supported by product innovation and development that challenges conventional wisdom and our palates. Toast Ale, the planet saving brewer, is attempting to deal with Halloween’s “frightening food waste problem” with a pumpkin beer. We’ll happily drink to that.

And they are not the only ones raising a pint to food waste. Our client Kellogg’s is turning imperfect Corn Flakes that don’t make it into packs into a special ‘Throw Away IPA’ at local brewery Seven Brothers, replacing some of the wheat grain in the formula. The collaboration has been so popular that Kellogg’s is currently exploring other ways of ‘rethinking waste’ by partnering with bakeries and other food companies.

Importantly, the discussion about food waste is increasingly mainstream, and the journey to eradicating the problem can’t be about platitudes and empty promises. It is a movement for good, that is gathering apace, with the onus on companies and consumers to demonstrate real commitment to change.

Related News & Insight