Compass Group Belgium is harnessing technology to combat food waste and has already saved 65,000 meals from being discarded since 2021. As part of Compass Group, Compass Belgium is one of the largest foodservice companies in Belgium, employing over 1500 people. Their ambitious goal is to cut food waste by 50% by 2030, and they are partnering with Winnow to make it happen (See case study). The collaboration currently spans 41 locations and is slated to expand to 48 more. By consistently tracking food waste data, the kitchen teams can identify the primary sources of waste and develop initiatives to minimise it. So far they have made impressive progress and have reduced the value of food waste by 35%.
Food waste is a significant global problem. Roughly one-third of all food produced worldwide is wasted before it reaches consumers or thrown in the bin, contributing to environmental and social issues. This is food that took huge amounts of energy, land, labour and water to produce, wasting finite resources that could be better used elsewhere. In landfill, the food decomposes, slowly releasing methane which contributes to the enhanced greenhouse gas effect. As a result, food waste contributes to 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The second reason to address food waste is a social one. Global hunger is a huge social issue, as nearly one billion people around the world go hungry. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that if food waste was eliminated, there would be enough food to feed an extra 2 billion people. This is an extraordinary amount of food, and would help feed the growing population that is set to increase to 8.6 billion by 2030.
To tackle this challenge, Compass Belgium has partnered with Winnow, a company offering technology solutions for commercial kitchens and food businesses to reduce waste and boost efficiency. Their flagship product, Winnow Vision, is an AI-powered system that uses cameras and machine learning to analyse food waste, providing data-driven insights for chefs and kitchen staff. Three key strategies have emerged from the use of this technology:
The first is to think creatively to reuse ingredients that would otherwise be wasted. The data provided by working with Winnow gives the team visibility on the quantities of different items being wasted. Chefs then use this information to encourage their team to find new ways of utilising every part of the ingredients so as to reduce waste. For example, Franck, Chef Gérant at Skeyes has started making leftover parsnip peelings into chips.
“I encourage my team to use their imagination to use ingredients, we have a job where we can (and must) be creative to minimise waste. I think it was Lavoisier who said ‘nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed’ so we just have to use a little imagination”
Franck, Chef Gérant at Skeyes
Another insight is using data to adapt to market fluctuations. Logging waste is important at all times, but research shows that when the market is as uncertain as it is today, waste can increase by up to 50% so tracking it can help you stay on top of this. As a result, chefs across Compass Belgium have found that using the data provided by Winnow has allowed them to adapt to market fluctuations and minimise food waste as a result. Bart de Blieck at Deloitte Belgium highlights the importance of maintaining flexibility during menu planning. Sudden changes in supply and pricing means it is no longer feasible to plan menus weeks and months in advance. Chefs can combat this by creating weekly dishes based on the best available ingredients at that point in time.
“In this day and age it is no longer logical to plan the menu weeks in advance due to too large market fluctuations in supply and pricing. The chefs can help by being flexible and creating weekly dishes using what’s best in the market at the time”
Bart de Blieck, Deloitte Belgium
The final learning is that data can be used to increase customer satisfaction. Tracking waste gives the team more visibility on which dishes or ingredients are often leftover, or not selected by customers and therefore which ones they prefer. They can then use this to alter the proportions of prepared dishes to suit customer preferences, overall reducing waste. This has been a particularly successful initiative at Wieltjesgracht, where the team have managed to cut their food waste by 42%.
“If we learn that the customers prefer one food over another, we can adjust the distribution of dishes to suit their desires and reduce our food waste.”
Chef Caroline, Wieltjesgracht
Total Ertveld has used the data to emphasise the importance of improving dish presentation, and has used alternative ingredients, or alternative menu items when necessary to minimise food waste. Chef Vicky has worked hard to streamline kitchen operations regarding food waste and the result is an impressive reduction of 55% since implementation in February of 2023.
“We work to make the dishes even better, we try to present them more beautifully so that all of it gets eaten. We also find that producing a little less food, and then compensating with alternative ingredients and menu items when we run out helps to reduce waste”
Chef Vicky, Total Ertveld
Compass Group Belgium's efforts have led to an average of 1,000 kg of food saved per week, totaling 65,000 meals saved from landfill since 2021. By leveraging technology solutions like Winnow, Compass Group Belgium is demonstrating how data-driven approaches can make a significant impact in the fight against food waste and pave the way for a more sustainable food system.
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