Distribution is undoubtedly the display window of the mass consumption business in all parts of the world. A display window that we frequently tend to look at and, in some cases, to blame when an issue arises related to food and its derivative products, forgetting that it is only the last link of a chain with many players, including of course distribution itself. A recurring example in this regard is the food waste issue, which inevitably leads the public to look towards their closest supermarket. This is why it is important to clarify some relevant figures.
In mass distribution, the margins are so tight that food waste becomes a matter of survival. The more food waste a supermarket generates the bigger the dent in the balance sheet. More spending on purchases and less revenue on sales. As simple as that. Therefore, it should not be surprising that this industry, according to figures from the European Commission, represents only 5% of food waste in Europe, far from the 14% from the hotel industry, 29% from the primary sector industry and 53% from households. “Food waste: the problem in the EU in numbers” Precisely this last point, that of consumers, should be the most important one in the face of a supposed future regulation related to waste.
In Catalonia, political and regulatory options are already being discussed at the political level in favour of the prevention of food waste, which coincides with the discussion process – initiated in the Catalonian Parliament – of a proposal for a law on the use of food surpluses. Everything seems to aim at over-regulation measures that will certainly affect the players in the value chain but will forget and ignore the numbers mentioned above. We thus run the risk of regulating thinking of the big headlines but making its implementation ineffective. How do we deal with that 53% of household generated food waste which represents each and every one of us? Well, undoubtedly with less regulation and generating more awareness, education and creative solutions focused on households.
Sectoral regulation to try to solve certain global problems is often a resource usually employed in a large number of countries. But it might be better to look at certain sectors and companies that have already been undertaking different initiatives that affect their areas of action on their own initiative.
What are we currently doing?
In the case of DIA, the company fights waste through two channels: food deliveries to the most disadvantaged groups and citizen awareness. Since 2009, DIA holds an agreement with the Spanish Food Bank Federation, through which it makes constant and periodic deliveries of its surplus to the different soup kitchens throughout Spain. Through a system integrated in the logistics process itself, this surplus not suitable for sale but for consumption, is returned to the different warehouses of the company throughout Spain and, from there, the deliveries are made directly to the banks. Last year alone, more than 3.5 million kilos were delivered in Spain through this system to soup kitchens throughout the country.
Also, raising awareness is critical in the fight against food waste. Since its origins, DIA has been part in the initiative led by AECOC, “No food goes to waste”, in which more than 350 manufacturing and distribution companies already participate. The project has three main objectives: To establish prevention and efficiency practices throughout the food chain, maximise the use of the surplus produced throughout the different stages of the value chain (redistribution, reuse and recycling) and raise awareness about this problem in society.
The question that remains is, what do we as consumers to fight food waste?