According to a consumer study conducted last spring by Sealed Air and Harris Poll, people are more concerned about food waste than water shortages, climate change and GMOs. While the study showed consumers have a greater awareness of how much food is wasted in the US, most American grocery shoppers don’t think they’re part of the problem. Though food packaging can play a role in preventing waste, the study found shoppers associate food packaging with safety more than waste. In fact, consumers reported they view discarded packaging as worse for the environment than food waste.
Many packaging advances in the past 30 years have been geared to making life more convenient as traditional stay-at-home mothers joined the workforce in increasing numbers. This societal shift also has resulted in grocery shopping no longer being a strictly female responsibility. According to a recent report from the Hartman Group, though fewer men are the primary grocery shoppers for a family, both sexes are now making the same number of store visits each month.
On a personal level, I’m concerned by the amount of food I waste each month. The waste is caused by the modern, busy lifestyle so often in flux due to career, personal and family demands. I don’t intend to waste food, but it happens more than I like, and it has altered what fresh fruit, produce and prepared meals I buy.
The food industry has been trying to tackle the problem on a number of fronts. Consumer education, improved labeling addressing sell by/use by date misperceptions and increased research on technologies such as time temperature indicators that detect and record product quality attributes are all steps in the right direction.
Solving the food waste problem is not the sole responsibility of either the food industry or the packaging industry. But it will better for industry groups to truly grasp the issue and lead the charge rather than be blamed for the problem.