The food industry is known to be one of the largest producers of waste which makes it a good time to discuss how waste is generated and ways to keep it at a minimum using inventory management can facilitate waste control.
The scale of food waste
1.9 million tonnes of commercial food waste is discarded annually in Australia, with two-thirds of this waste coming from the food retail sector and food and beverage services sector
This poses a significant and dangerous threat to our environment due to the greenhouse gases emitted as food decomposes in landfills. In fact, in Australia, these emissions equal those of the steel and iron producers!
When we consider the global scale of food waste, we feel the gravity of this western norm. One-third of all food grown is not consumed in any way but rather discarded. We need to remember that the cost of food waste is not only the harmful gaseous emissions out of landfills but is also the needless water, transport and manufacturing costs associated with its production.
Specific areas of wastage in the food industry
There are multiple areas of food wastage in the food and hospitality industry. These include the following: spillage, contamination, unacceptable quality, failure to use within date, spoilage for other reasons, unaccounted for consumption (staff) and overstocking. You may well be aware of these areas for food wastage but have deemed them to not be significant. However, it is important to note that even small amounts here and there add up and can drastically erode the bottom line and any profits the business generates.
How to combat wastage
The key to combatting food waste is ordering what is in demand, in the amount needed and having controlled systems in place for using ingredients appropriately. Let us consider these in more detail:
Curb on-the-job snacking
Staff are culprits for grabbing food here and there to consume throughout their shift. By and large, this may be considered acceptable but it can add up and burden the bottom line significantly. Consider reviewing the company policy around this and introducing boundaries so that any staff takings can accurately be accounted for in inventory.
Food wastage can occur through simple, logistical issues such as spilling food or not having proper composting and donating facilities set up. To address spillage or cross-contamination it may mean ensuring all staff wear non-slip shoes or reviewing storage and preparation areas that perpetuate cross-contamination. For wastage after production or consumption, this may mean setting up large-scale composting facilities and identifying a food bank that is happy to take leftover food at the end of the working day.
Always check what is already on hand before ordering
Inventory management software allows businesses to keep track of what is used in production, what has been sold, and what you have remaining in stock so that reordering accurately becomes a breeze.
Don’t go broke saving money
As much as it pains you, do not buy in bulk unless you are certain you will use it. If you do make a bulk purchase with no plan and find yourself unable to utilise it all, you will essentially be wasting money despite the perceived savings.
Store items correctly
Ensure that food items are stored where their shelf lives will be maximised. Perishables must be stored in the refrigerator (such as dairy, meat and eggs) for example whereas tinned products are quite happy sitting on a shelf in the dark. This may seem logical, however there are some products that can catch you out such as cucumbers which spoil faster in refrigerators due to their relatively high freezing point. Research the ideal storage conditions for your inventory as spoilage due to inappropriate storage is a needless and costly waste.
Analyse and audit your waste
Less than 28% of businesses have conducted food audits to analyse their waste. When audits are carried out, you might uncover some interesting statistics about your wastage will make improvement far easier. For example, 40% of food waste is carbohydrates such as potato, bread, pasta and rice. Unsurprisingly, these are usually the cheapest components of a meal and therefore may easily be overstocked and discarded without a concern of the effect on the bottom line. It is as simple as reducing portion sizes of this group of foods and ensuring you only make what is ordered or will likely be consumed.
If you are allowed by food regulations to offer doggie bags, by all means, do it. This creates a culture of consuming what we order and ensuring every last morsel is valued for what it is.
We have alluded to it, but inventory management software is essential to gaining control of your stores and ensuring waste is kept to a minimum.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.