Food waste is a huge problem, one that gains a lot of attention this time of year as family gatherings, office parties and other holiday feasts underscore the huge amount of scrappage that simply has become part of the accustomed supply chain.
That’s the supply chain Kroger is trying to disrupt, as are some other major retailers, CPG companies, and many startups dedicated to the not only of reducing waste but of “upcycling” raw food materials that used to go to landfills and who-knows-where else.
Up to 40 percent of potential food for consumption ends up as waste, according to the National Resources Defense Council. And so mitigation of food waste has become a business model, a social cause, an opportunity and a challenge that ties back to the issues of national food insecurity as well as a drive to cut plastic packaging waste.
Early next year, for instance, the Cincinnati-based chain plans to introduce Pickuliar Picks as an “ugly produce” brand. Its tagline will be “imperfect but perfectly delicious,” and it will comprise tomatoes, bell peppers, limes, yellow onions, gala apples and other items that may be too small, too bumpy or too freckly on the outside but are just fine on the inside.
“When produce comes in or is grown and comes off the farm, if it doesn’t meet a specific spec, color, shape or size, it gets rejected,” said Nicole Davis, senior innovation manager for Our Brands at Kroger, who unveiled plans for Pickuliar Picks at a summit in Washington, DC, according to Supermarket News. If such products “still taste delicious and are perfectly food-safe, why can’t we capture some of that and use it to feed people, which is our ultimate goal?”
Kroger’s food-waste platform also includes achieving the chain’s own waste-reduction goals, which range from expanding composting behind its stores to achieving “zero food waste as a company” by 2025, and establishing a $10 million “innovation fund” within Kroger’s foundation to “address hunger, food waste and the paradoxical relationship between the two.”
“We’re hoping to encourage our customers to try these items and help us work through them, because there’s so much waste,” Davis said.