Towards a circular food chain

Chapter 3. Food, foodservice and supply chains – fighting food waste

By Simon Stenning

“There is a growing sense that there is too much waste so consumers and operators are pushing back, creating new ways to be more ethical and sustainable.”

Foodservice in 2030 is going to look very different from now and there will be significant changes.

I believe that within little more than a decade the eating-out market will be worth over £105bn (up from the current estimate of £90bn) because more of us, more often, will be eating out of home. I expect eating out to increase to an average of 12 meals per week, up from the current nine. This ‘share of stomach’ will be shared between grocery, foodservice, delivery services and snacking, with the latter two supplanting more grocery meals at home. This growth, however, does have effects on the amount of food produced and food wasted.

I believe current consumer trends for health and wellbeing will change to the following:

  • Curiosity – a sense of adventure; wanting to experience more
  • Purpose – making a difference, giving back and living more ethically and sustainability
  • Fulfilment – achieving more, having life personalised for ‘me’
  • Authenticity – more value through simplistic but authentic experience and quality
  • ‘Leisure-tainment’ – seeking greater entertainment experiences
  • Connected – sharing values around things that matter

‘Purpose’ is most relevant when looked at through the lens of sustainability and the environment but most have significant implications for the eating-out market. The incredible increase in consumption of coffee on-the-go has resulted in billions of disposable cups being discarded annually. But this is now starting to change as operators provide consumers with the choice of using their own cups or even, as in the case with the Boston Tea Party café chain, stopping using them altogether. The chain claims to have saved over 115,000 cups from landfill since 2018 but has acknowledged it has affected the bottom line – so far.

Water bottles are rapidly falling out of favour, with more operators meeting consumer demands for simple tap water and the ability to fill up their own, reusable, bottles. Pret A Manger has embraced this ideal, providing water stations in its new stores.

Food waste is harder to deal with when eating out of home, as operators want to provide a sense of quantity, generosity, and abundance. Consumers don’t want to spend hard-earned money on eating out only to be faced with limited, sparse quantities in the name of cutting waste. But there are schemes and technologies helping to reduce food waste and these will grow in scale over the next few years.

The foodservice of the future will see many more initiatives and developments like these as operators and consumers work together to be more sustainable and ethical. Consumers will also change. Suppliers and operators within foodservice will have to be more ethical but they will know there is a willing market for it.

As an industry, we have always wanted to give more but in the future we will need to be more considerate to consumers’ health, the environment and to future generations. It will be a difficult tightrope to balance on, but we have to embrace it or lose credibility and significance.

Simon Stenning is the founder of FutureFoodservice.com and leading analyst and commentator on the UK Foodservice market.

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Awarenes of food waste in foodservice is growingSimon Stenning