Finding value in surplus food: Study finds high levels of consumer acceptance

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Sustainable agriculture Food

Consumer acceptance of foods created from ‘waste’ ingredients was revealed when researchers found shoppers expressed a preference for value-added surplus products.

Researchers found consumers did not discount the foods citing environmental concerns and benefits to society as reasons.

They also deemed the foods termed value-added surplus products (VASP), as more helpful to the environment than conventional foods, but less helpful when compared to organic foods.

“Value-added surplus foods may be perceived closer to organic foods as a category, encouraging the possibility of promoting such foods as a new category offering benefits to society,” ​said Dr Rajneesh Suri, vice dean for research and strategic partnerships and professor of marketing at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.

“Not only that, but selling these foods could also prove lucrative.

“Depending upon how you communicate such products, they might also be able to fetch a price premium, like those afforded to organic foods,” ​he added.

The use of ingredients destined for disposal has given cause for firms such as FoodSolutionsTeam that are creating new ingredients using a blend of extraction and processing methods.

The Swiss-based firm is using carrot pulp to produce its KaroPRO ingredient that can be added to processed food to improve water retention.

FoodSolutionsTeam also has similar food ingredients in the pipeline with products created from organic linseed, peas and rice.

Dutch-based firm Phytonext is also active in this area refining novel extraction methods to extract sustainable ingredients from citrus peel and tomato waste.

Study details

The study researchers, based at Drexel University in Philadelphia, US first presented 51 participants with three food categories: conventional, organic and VASP.

These categories were represented by four different foods: soup, juice, granola bars, and pasta sauce.

Participants said that VASP were more environmentally beneficial than conventional foods, but less so compared to organic foods. They classed these foods as a separate category from the other two.

In study number two, consumer opinion was tested with nine product labels attached to brand VASPs: Upcycled, recycled, upscaled, rescaled, reprocessed, reclaimed, up-processed, resorted and rescued.

The team found “upcycled”​ was the most preferred label, followed by “reprocessed.”

The final test looked into whether a product’s benefit for self or others factored into their feelings. Participants agreed that consuming VASPs would be acceptable if in doing so greater advantages would benefits others.

“There is an economic, environmental and cultural argument for keeping food, when possible, as food and not trash,”​ said Dr Jonathan Deutsch, professor based at the Center for Food and Hospitality Management.

“Converting surplus foods into value-added products will feed people, create opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and lower the environmental impact of wasted resources.”

New waste measurement standard

The European Commission is keen to shed light on this growing problem that sees around 88 million tonnes of food wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at €143bn.

Food loss and waste in industrialised countries are as high as in developing countries, but their distribution is different.

In developing countries, over 40% of food losses happen after harvest and during processing. Meanwhile in industrialised countries, over 40% occurs at retail and consumer level.

One sticking point in tackling this issue has been a universally accepted method to reliably define and report food loss resulting in the introduction of a Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLW)

Launched at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit in Copenhagen, the FLW standard follows action by The Consumer Goods Forum back in 2015, which committed members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50% by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard.

Speaking in 2016, Paul Bulcke, Nestlé chairman and, at the time, CEO, vowed the firm would play its part, calling for “bold action​” and a commitment by the food giants to send zero waste for disposal from its sites by 2020.

Tesco boss Dave Lewis added his voice saying that the supermarket giant was the first UK retailer to publish third party-assured food waste data using the FLW standard and would continue to do so every year.

Source: Journal of Consumer Behaviour

Published online ahead of print: DOI: 10.1002/cb.1689

“From food waste to value-added surplus products (VASP): Consumer acceptance of a novel food product category.”

Authors: Jonathan Deutsch, Hasan Ayaz, Rajneesh Suri et al.

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