We must do more to eliminate food waste and procurement can help

About one third of the food we produce is wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This equates to 1.3 billion tonnes or in monetary terms, $990 billion dollars. In the UK, according to FareShare, an authority on food consumption and waste, 1.9 million tonnes of food are wasted a year.

Clearly, food is being wasted at an unimaginable scale, but digging further into this data shows an alarming, but unsurprising trend. $680 billion of food a year is wasted in industrialised nations, compared to $310 in the developing world; illustrating a correlation between wealth and wastefulness.

It’s incumbent on our society to mitigate food waste, morally speaking, but there’s a catalogue of reasons why eliminating food waste is important. The most significant:

  • It saves businesses precious cash as you won’t need to buy as much food
  • Ordering less and wasting less improves your carbon footprint, by reducing the methane you’d contribute putting waste into landfill
  • Conserves resources used to mass-produce, package and transport food

Some organisations in the UK are trying to combat food waste. For instance, Tesco, a leading UK supermarket has its perfectly imperfect range, a series of wonky fruit and vegetables that won’t pass quality assurance because of their disfigured nature.

Similarly, UK coffee chain Pret a Manger, delivers unsold food to homeless shelters across the country. They’ve been doing this since 1986 and other chains have followed suit, to cut their own food waste.

While giving away unused food is important to combat poverty, it doesn’t solve the root cause of the issue. As a matter of fact, excess food and drink at the end of the working day is symptomatic of an underlying inventory and stock management issue.

It’s imperative that you fix inventory management problems at their source, in order to mitigate food waste. This means first, carefully examining your buying processes. This is because the way you order and purchase ingredients for your produce is instrumental to identifying what you can do to alleviate excess stock wastage.

Our top four tips:

  1. Integrate eProcurement with your menu planning system – by integrating eProcurement with your menu planning systems, buyers can search for complete dishes. It’ll help purchasers calculate the exact cost of a dish based on the ingredients and quantities, in line with projections generated by your menu planning system; ensuring wastage is eliminated.


  1. Real-time stock checks regularly – with real-time electronic stock checks, catering staff will be able to check stocks of items quickly, easily and be able to monitor supplier stock levels, leaving them able to clearly identify what items they can or cannot order.


  1. Full spend visibility – a centralised approach to purchasing helps food and hospitality organisations eliminate maverick spend, a culture where spending is unregulated and out of control. Instead, a single eProcurement system manages all purchases for direct goods.


  1. Centralised ordering – catering staff that have the freedom to place orders as they see fit, via phone, email or online can cause issues. In some instances, without a centralised system in place over ordering can be commonplace, resulting in wastage. With eProcurement, all purchasing is centralised ensuring that only approved parties can order stock based on forecasts and real-time stock levels instead of whims.

Daniel Ball, business development director, Wax Digital.