Unilever builds on food waste drive with mobile app for chefs

Unilever has pledged to do more to help cut food waste within the hospitality sector ahead of World Environment Day tomorrow (June 5), which is highlighting the issue as its focus theme this year.

At an event earlier in London today, Unilever’s food solutions division announced it would support key industry-led targets to reduce waste outside of its own value chain – most notably among restaurants, hotels, pubs, caterers and food manufacturers.

Working with WRAP through its voluntary hospitality and food service agreement, the company is seeking to help cut food and associated packaging waste by 5% and increase recycling to 70%.

Tracey Rogers, managing director of Unilever Food Solutions (UFS), said it’s own in-house United against Waste campaign launched 18 months ago was aimed at bringing the industry together – on a global scale – to address the growing problem of food waste.

“We are now running waste reduction programmes in 23 countries and we have launched our campaign in six countries. We want to help chefs around the world to reduce waste in their kitchens,” she said.

Last year Unilever developed an online waste toolkit for catering venues and restaurants to help food service operators control their costs better. Since its launch, it has been downloaded over 800 times – Rogers said the next step was to make this more accessible for greater impact.

Today the company unveiled its latest initiative – a free mobile ‘wise up on waste’ app, which will enable chefs to monitor food waste arisings and manage customer plate waste more effectively.

“With over 88% of chefs in the industry using mobile apps, we know it’s the best way to engage with them and create the biggest impact. It gives chefs a mobile tool that allows them to track waste at their fingertips,” Rogers explained.

WRAP’s hospitality and food service agreement launched last summer is going from strength to strength and now has more than 150 signatories.

The organisation has done its own research into consumer attitudes to food waste outside of the home and estimates that the hospitality sector could save around £722m a year by preventing food waste.

The study highlights portion size as being a critical contributory factor in generating leftover food on plates – more than half (53%) of respondents wanted more choice around portion size while 44% stated that large portions were off putting.

Speaking at the event, WRAP’s director of waste prevention Dr Richard Swannell said that most wasted food when eating out is often the side dishes of chips, vegetables and salad – and that this in itself presented a quick win for food service operators looking to save money.

“There are big opportunities for the food service sector to tackle plate waste and help people order the portion size they want,” he said.

“We now have an industry working group looking at menu planning and portion sizing – hopefully this will support delivery of our key targets.”

Maxine Perella

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