5 Obstacles to Reducing Food Waste and How to Overcome Them

Posted by Liv Lemos / 3-May-2019

5 obstacles to reducing food waste - blog-2

The last decade has seen a major rise in businesses looking to become more socially responsible - likely driven by more consumers becoming wary around business practices and processes. Food waste is a key example of how businesses can become more responsible. Food waste costs the global economy $1 trillion per year as well as contributing 8% to global carbon emissions. So it’s no wonder that hotels, cruise liners, events venues, retailers and more are wanting to look at ways to reduce food waste in response to legislation, government policies and their own corporate ethical vision.

However, when it comes to looking for solutions like artificial intelligence, there can be various obstacles. Read the rest of the article to learn the top five obstacles to reducing food waste and how businesses can overcome them with the right solution:

1. Human error 

Human error is an inevitable fact of day-to-day life - but in a corporate world, it can have drastic effects on many aspects of the business (depending on the level of the error). There can be many outcomes of human error which can contribute to avoidable food waste. For example, while spreadsheets can help to manage orders, they’re prone to error and a simple miscalculation can mean overstocking on food which will end up being thrown away.  

However, the larger proportion of food waste comes from overproduction and kitchens that record data on spreadsheets are similarly error prone.. Kitchens that don’t use technology will often manually enter rough food waste estimates on spreadsheets and try to adjust the volume of food prepared from there. This data is incomplete and inaccurate and therefore doesn’t reduce waste effectively.  

Winnow Vision can help deliver value from day one through a validation service that can help to guarantee the accuracy of recorded data from the kitchen. The sophisticated camera will take a picture of every food item being thrown into the bin and will compile this data for future use, using its machine learning algorithm to continuously learn and become smarter over time. This data is then validated for accuracy by the Winnow team. 

Watch how IKEA UK is using Winnow Vision to automate food waste management

2. Lack of time 

Chefs are extremely busy running demanding commercial kitchens and don’t often have the time to dedicate towards noting down exactly what’s being thrown away - especially in large, busy kitchens. Food waste can be therefore hard to track in this way, especially if you’re relying on memory and "guesstimations".  

To combat this, Winnow Vision takes the hard work of figuring out what you’re throwing away out of the equation. Winnow is using computer vision, which enables computers to understand the information - which is provided by images. This solution automates the recording of waste and eliminates the need for training employees. Additionally, because of its AI capability, the solution becomes smarter every time it’s used and collects and analyses data - eventually requiring no human intervention at all and staff can simply throw items into the bin and the data will be recorded. 

3. Not investing in the right initiatives

While there are many initiatives around tackling food waste - these tend to be ones that aim to deal with the aftermath of food waste, as opposed to tackling the issue at an earlier stage where food waste can be avoided from the outset.  

Winnow Vision is one such technology that utilises AI to help businesses tackle food waste by gathering data on what food is wasted and at what stage they’re wasted at. For instance, if food is being wasted in the preparation stage, it will mean the kitchen needs to reduce the number of ingredients being used, or if food is wasted on a plate which could mean portion sizes are too large. 

4. Lack of efficiency

While many businesses, such as retailers, are taking some measures to reduce food waste, they’re still not taking full advantage of the technology on the market that can really help tackle issues such as efficiency.  

Retailer Coop Norway utilised technology to improve its logistics structure with the aim to increase the efficiency and accuracy of their food picking system. As a result, they’ve achieved an “error-free and store-friendly picking”.  

AI technology can also help businesses to forecast what they require and identify gaps in predicted vs actual sales and aim to minimise the gap and see that food waste can be avoided at an earlier stage of the process.  

With Winnow Vision’s AI technology, it can help improve accuracy and efficiency through automating the process of analysing food waste in the kitchen. Over time, you will get a higher level of data accuracy and deeper insights into how the kitchen is being run and allowing you to streamline processes that will work much quicker. 

5. Lack of awareness about the problem

Only in recent years has food waste become an important topic and businesses are still realising how much financial value reducing food waste can have - as well as from a social responsibility point of view. However, there might be a struggle in gaining buy-ins from shareholders. This lack of buy-in could be influenced by different factors such as:  

  • Lack of awareness about the problem - Without being able to pinpoint how, when, where and why food is wasted in the business, it can be difficult to understand how to solve the issue
  • Suspicion about the effectiveness of new technology - As a result, people who have worked in the industry for a long time are suspicious about the cost savings you can make  

Winnow is dedicated to providing technology for food services businesses to cut food waste within their operations. The technology has already been adopted by over 1,000 sites around the world and has seen a 40-70% reduction in food waste within 6-12 months of implementation.  

Additionally, the reporting aspect of the product provides transparency against the value of every item being thrown away and actively driving a change in behaviours when it comes to wasting food. Reports are sent through daily which highlight opportunities for cutting down waste and tracking performance - giving a good level of visibility of the kitchen’s process.  

Ultimately, food cost savings of 2-8% can be achieved, improving margins. Businesses who have implemented the solution have enhanced their sustainability credentials within the industry and to consumers - meaning they’re able to gain a commercial advantage over competitors.  

See how much your business could save by dramatically reducing food waste. Use our helpful calculator (below) now and we’ll send you your personalised report.

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