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Fighting Food Waste with Unilever

 

Every year, a staggering 10 million tonnes of food lands up in South Africa’s skips, bins and landfills. Of this, fruits, vegetables and cereals account for 70% of the wastage. [1]

Elsewhere in the world, things are no different. Food loss and waste is a global crisis with one-third of all food produced globally lost or wasted [2]. This is about 1.3 billion tonnes of food – an amount that would take up more land surface area than China and India combined, according to the UN Environment Programme. [3]

Tackling food waste is an opportunity to address food insecurity, protect natural resources and mitigate climate change – and it requires a global approach. There is no reason anybody should experience daily hunger and undernourishment, especially when billions of kilograms of good food go to waste every day.

Our goal at Unilever is to help alleviate this. Being one of the world’s largest food producers, we are passionate about protecting and preserving food – starting with ourselves.  How? By educating people about the harmful effects of food waste through our brands. To this end, we’ve committed to halving food waste in our operations by 2025 (from 2019 levels) as part of the Champions 12.3 initiative.

We want everyone in our business to be a Food Waste Warrior and spot any opportunity to save food.

Unilever’s food waste commitments

 We have ambitious goals when it comes to tackling food waste. By 2025, we aim to cut food waste by half in our direct operations, from the factory to the shelf. Food-saving techniques we’re using include manufacturing fixes and circular economy approaches. For instance, if our ice cream packaging lines stop working, we store the ice cream safely so it can be packaged when the lines are fixed, rather than letting it become food waste. We also make sure we use every scrap of raw materials so they’re not wasted.

We know, of course, that as one of the world’s biggest food manufacturers we have a role to play and that we cannot do it alone. The partners in our complex food chain must join us if we are to achieve sustainable change at scale, from production and manufacturing to retail and consumption.

Here are more of our Unilever Food Waste commitments:

  • Achieving zero waste to landfills and ensuring that no good food is wasted.
  • Making sure no expired products or ingredients are thrown away or wasted in our operations.
  • Getting key suppliers to follow our lead and tackle food loss and waste in their facilities.
  • Educating, partnering, and providing services to help our food service customers avoid food waste and redistribute surplus food.
  • Assisting consumers in preventing food waste at home through our brands.

We’ll continue to publicly communicate our food waste data in our global Unilever Food Waste Report each year.

Food-saving brand innovations

 Our brands have developed innovative strategies to prevent food waste. At Unilever, we have a rich history of putting by-products to good use, pioneered by some of our oldest and most loved brands. As an example, here are some ways in which Hellmann’s is encouraging consumers to avoid waste:

  • Helping people use leftovers to make delicious meals, with recipe suggestions from the campaign helping fight food waste.
  • Getting 100 million Brazilians to become Fridge Heroes and appreciate the leftovers in their refrigerators.
  • Using celebrity chefs to showcase Hellmann’s in ‘Bring Your Own Food’ restaurants across the globe, where chefs turned diners’ leftover ingredients into five-star meals.
  • Creating new dishes from store-cupboard staples, leftover ingredients, and Hellmann’s mayo in the UK’s #MixItUp campaign.

To find out more about food waste initiatives from Hellmann’s, click here.

Unilever brand Knorr is also playing a dynamic role in inspiring consumers to be more resourceful when it comes to food. By encouraging mindful eating through its #EatForGood campaign, supporting sustainable agriculture, and championing changes in consumer buying habits, Knorr has thrown a spotlight on the importance of preventing food waste, starting in the kitchen.

Here are Knorr’s top tips for fighting food waste at home:

  • Don’t buy too much food. Plan your meals ahead, then make a detailed shopping list, and stick to it.
  • Save leftovers in air-tight containers in the fridge and use them before they go off by getting creative and transforming them into new meals.  
  • Store food correctly, in the right places, to prevent it going bad. Make sure your fridge is set to right temperature (no higher than 4 °C). Tightly seal packets of dry goods to discourage bugs. Make sure over-ripe fruit and veggies don’t taint other fresh produce. Check your veggie bin and fruit bowl daily, and plan your menu around items that need to be eaten before they spoil.     
  • Treat expiration and sell-by dates on packaging as guidelines, not as rules written in stone.
  • Use surplus food in creative ways: freeze vegetable peelings and bones for making stock, make jams and pickles with leftover fruit, turn stale bread into dried breadcrumbs.
  • Make a compost heap and turn kitchen scraps into fertiliser.
 

[1] https://www.wwf.org.za/?21962/The-truth-about-our-food-waste-problem 

[2] https://assets.unilever.com/files/92ui5egz/production/618a3b6b7b59b5aa7f73500937677efb2a64ea2f.pdf/Unilever-Food-Waste-Report-2019.pdf

[3] https://www.unep.org/pt-br/node/28246