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Sustainable futures: brands seize the food waste opportunity

Lleig skincare

Spanish designer Júlia Roca Vera’s Lleig skincare line is made from discarded oranges

As food waste becomes a better-understood issue, uses of wastestream materials and ingredients are proliferating across industries, and are creating worldwide impact.

In March, the UN released the most comprehensive assessment of global food waste to date, finding that a third of food is wasted worldwide. 931 million tonnes of food was wasted in 2019 – or 17% of the total food that is available to consumers. Food wasted within the home amounts to 74kg per person per year.

Growing awareness

Waste is a growing area of conversation. According to WGSN social media data, mentions of keywords related to reducing waste have increased in average monthly penetration from 2019 to 2020 across industries (beauty: +1.8ppts to 6.2%, food & drink: +0.6ppts to 5.3%, lifestyle & interiors: +0.6ppts to 4.2%), spiking in April each year.

“Food waste has been thrown into the spotlight more than ever due to the pandemic, with supply chain issues and food poverty among the challenges this difficult time has exacerbated. Consumers are looking to brands that help them solve these concerns. And while it starts in the kitchen, the idea of zero waste is now embedded in our entire lifestyle and brands across all industries have an urgent need to deliver solutions that will help their customers play their part in helping the planet.” Jennifer Creevy, Head of Food & Drink, WGSN.

Companies are responding to the issue at scale. In food and drink, Kroger has pledged to invest $2.5 million in food waste start-ups, via its Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation.

Singapore-based brand Confetti Snacks (above) makes its crunchy veg snacks from “outcast produce” – wonky fruit, vegetables and mushrooms that are infused with Asian spices to create enticing flavours such as Green Curry and Teriyaki BBQ

Product applications

In beauty, Givaudan Active Beauty upcycles wild bilberry seeds, which are a byproduct of extracting anthocyanins, while Spanish designer Júlia Roca Vera has created a skincare line called Lleig from discarded oranges.

In fashion, Weekday’s new Studio Made collection uses natural dyes made from pomegranate, avocado and red onion peel, on garments made from hemp.

Coffee is emerging as a key ingredient, and has multiple applications. Vietnamese shoe brand ShoeX has recently expanded into making biodegradable, reusable face masks (below) from coffee beans.

Cross-industry innovations

Solar panels are also being made from waste: engineer Carvey Ehren Maigue won the James Dyson Sustainability Award for AuREUS, which is made from waste crops and is up to 35% more efficient than standard solar panels.

Philippines-based company CocoPallet has created an export pallet made from coconut husk waste, as an alternative to traditional timber, which contributes to deforestation in the region. The cocohusk pallet is fire-retardant, sturdy and lightweight, while supporting the livelihoods of farmers in the region.

So when it comes to food, never before has the mantra ‘waste not, want not’ seemed so ripe and full of opportunity.

To read more about the key stories within sustainability, WGSN subscribers can access the full Sustainability Bulletin: April 2021 right here.

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