This will be done through projects in which the company improves its packaging to maintain food quality throughout the value chain from packing to consumer.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has laid down a challenge to the food industry and the grocery trade to accept greater responsibility for the environmental issues involved in the production and distribution of food. This will require more knowledge, awareness and actual measures throughout the value chain. Pressure on the environment is particularly high in primary production and it is therefore important that food which is produced is actually eaten by the consumer. This network gives the industry the chance to rise to the challenge.
It is estimated that for many product groups as much as a third of the food bought is eventually thrown away by the consumer. But why?
1. Use by dates and quality. Many consumers look no further than the use by date. As soon as the date has passed they throw away the food, even if its quality is still good. Is it possible to extend the use by dates marked on products, so that the food can be kept in the consumer's fridge for longer before the use by date expires? This would give safer prognoses for production planning, a longer useful life in the consumer's fridge and thereby less food wastage.
2. Reduced pack size. The fact is that food wastage has a greater effect on the environment than the packaging itself, so there could be real benefits from investigating whether the size of the pack actually suits the requirements of the consumer who buys it. If portion sizes were better adjusted, more of the food would probably be eaten. This also applies to the size of the outer packaging in which the food arrives at the supermarket, which may contain too many consumer packs to allow efficient stock rotation.
3. Optimum packaging. If you know how much protection for the food in the pack is enough, you may be able to simplify and reduce packaging materials and thereby improve earnings. Improving the overall fill ratio could also reduce transport requirements and the amount of space and energy used in warehouses and refrigerated storage.
The food industry is facing ever more stringent requirements for pallet utilisation, stacking capacity and waste recycling. Being at the forefront will give a competitive edge. Looking at its own value chain, a company will be able to find reasons for wastage, such as leaks in the packs. Optimising packaging solutions, after considering food quality, use by dates, distribution and customer group, can reduce food wastage. Both the company and the climate will be winners.
The network is primarily targeted at small and medium sized food companies in Norway, but it is also open to local units of major groups. Participants are expected to be production managers, packaging supervisors, quality supervisors, purchasers and marketing executives. We recommend that 2 or 3 people from each company attend.
Implementation and content
- We aim at organising 3 or 4 meetings over the course of about 12 months.
- The operation of the network will be a collaboration between Nofima Mat and Østfoldforskning, with input from other experts based on requirements.
- The meetings will consist of technical input, group tasks, exercises and the exchange of information and experience.
- Resources have been allocated for guidance and for analysis and documentation of relevant issues with the individual companies between meetings.
- The network format will allow participants to decide a great deal of the content for themselves.
The aim of the first meeting is to create an understanding of wastage problems in general, as well as focusing on what is actually meant by optimum packaging and on the requirements for the food product as it passes along the value chain. We will also focus on which food products it is strategically important to deal with, and this will form the basis for the companies' own projects.
The topics of the following meeting will be decided based on input from participating companies, but suggested topics will include shelf life and packing techniques, review and analysis throughout the value chain, new materials such as biomaterials, optimising packaging for logistics and value chain as well as waste handling (recycling packaging materials etc.).
Work in own companies
Between meetings, the participants will carry out projects in their own companies. related to issues within the network. A natural starting point for such a project would be to identify a strategically important and relevant product for the company from an environmental viewpoint and to investigate the various factors affecting packaging and wastage for that product. It would be an advantage for the company to have several (up to 3) participants in the network, so as to involve several technical areas in the work. Each company will receive individual expert guidance, subject to the resources the network has at its disposal.
Responsibility for the network
The network will be operated as a partnership between Nofima Mat and Østfoldforskning. Other specialists may become involved according to the needs and wishes of the participating companies.