Achieving an Eco-friendly Supermarket: How to Reduce Food Waste
An eco-friendly supermarket can be achieved by installing electronic shelf labels to reduce food waste, paper consumption, and more.
Did you know that a significant amount of food worldwide is wasted annually? According to McKinsey & Company, about 33-40% of food worldwide is lost or wasted every year. In the United States, suppliers, retailers, and consumers waste food every year, including fruits and vegetables, seafood, cereals, meat, and dairy products. This contributes to a looming global food crisis. This is all the more reason why retailers should be trying to create eco-friendly supermarkets in the community and why consumers are supporting sustainability.
Why should supermarkets be more eco-friendly?
Eco-friendly supermarkets and grocery stores can have a significant impact on the community. Apart from the environmental aspects, supermarkets that are adopting more sustainable practices will find themselves reaping various benefits and contributing to a more engaging community.
Here are a few significant reasons why supermarkets should strive to be more eco-friendly:
- Positive environmental impact - Supermarkets contribute significantly to environmental degradation through energy consumption, waste generation, and emissions. Adopting eco-friendly practices helps reduce the carbon footprint and minimizes harm to ecosystems, contributing to the overall health of the environment.
- Waste reduction - About 30% of food is thrown away annually when it comes to American grocery stores. Not only that, but supermarkets generate substantial amounts of packaging waste, including plastic, cardboard, and other materials. By adopting eco-friendly practices like packaging, encouraging recycling, and minimizing single-use items, supermarkets can contribute to reducing the overall waste burden on landfills and oceans.
- Conservation of resources - An eco-friendly supermarket focuses on sustainable sourcing of products, reducing water usage, and minimizing energy consumption. This approach helps conserve natural resources for the facility. This helps ensure that future generations can meet their needs without depleting essential elements like water, soil, and energy.
- Cost savings - While initial investments may be necessary to implement eco-friendly measures, supermarkets can often acquire long-term cost savings. Energy-efficient technologies, waste reduction strategies, and sustainable sourcing practices can lead to reduced operational costs and a larger profit over time.
- Meeting modern consumer demand - Many consumers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious. This means they are actively seeking products and services that align with their values. Adopting eco-friendly practices can attract environmentally aware customers, potentially boosting a supermarket's reputation and customer loyalty.
- Improved brand image and reputation - Being a sustainable supermarket can also enhance a retailer's brand image and reputation. Consumers are more likely to support businesses that demonstrate a commitment to environmental responsibility. This then contributes positively to the supermarket's market position and long-term success.
- Improved employee morale - Employees often take pride in working for companies that prioritize sustainability. An eco-friendly supermarket with sustainable practices can boost employee morale, engagement, and overall job satisfaction. This can lead to a more motivated and productive workforce.
- Compliance with regulations - It’s no surprise that governments worldwide are implementing stricter environmental regulations to address climate change and other ecological concerns. Supermarkets that proactively adopt eco-friendly practices are more likely to comply with existing and future regulations. This can help them avoid potential fines and legal issues.
- Long-term viability for the supermarket - As concerns about climate change and environmental sustainability grow, businesses that do not adapt may face challenges in the long run. Supermarkets that proactively adopt sustainable measures can position themselves for long-term viability and resilience in an evolving market.
Ways to reduce food waste in supermarkets
Excessive food waste and the global food crisis will continue to be a growing concern. Retailers and consumers have the power to take back some control and start investing in sustainable practices.
Here are a few ways supermarkets can reduce food waste:
#1 Keep products rotated
Rotating products is essential when it comes to supermarket display and inventory, especially perishable products. This means supermarket employees should restock shelves with the older products at the front so they’re the first to go. Perishable or delicate products, like fruits and vegetables, should be rotated and moved to avoid bruising, wilting, and more. This is one of the most simple things a retailer can do to achieve an eco-friendly supermarket.
#2 Optimize food handling
Food handling, from the supplier, the transit, and the packaging, can all contribute to food damage and food waste. Supermarkets need to partner with suppliers who take care of their produce and items. They also need to train employees on proper handling when it comes to deliveries, restocking, hygiene, and food safety, as well as mitigation techniques.
#3 Collaborate with farmers and local vendors
Collaborating with farmers and local vendors is a recommended sustainable approach. Among the supply chain, food waste starts with farms, from unharvested produce or unsold products. Globally, there are about 1.2 billion tonnes of produce wasted before it even makes it out of the farm.
If supermarkets partner with local farms and vendors, they will be able to buy fresh produce straight from them, reducing the chances of unharvested or unsold produce. This, of course, will also be better for the customers in the community, as they shop for fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables and support local farmers and vendors.
#4 Eliminate and replace bad store practices
Eco-friendly supermarkets also work towards analyzing their operations and eliminating bad store practices. Instead, they can work towards implementing new grocery practices to establish sustainability.
Composting programs can divert organic waste from landfills, turning it into valuable compost for agricultural use. Recycling packaging materials by providing convenient recycling stations within the supermarket is a good practice. Encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags and containers is also a move towards zero-waste grocery shopping. Meanwhile, establishing specific targets and goals for reducing food waste is also recommended, as these can help regularly assess progress towards sustainable objectives.
#5 Embrace modern technologies
Sustainable supermarkets also embrace modern technologies and solutions to reduce food waste. They can use technology, such as digital labels or electronic shelf labels (ESL), to track and manage inventory more efficiently, optimize retail operations, enhance dynamic pricing and accuracy, and more.
SOLUM’s Newton ESL, for example, is capable of enhancing retail operations that would reduce food waste and contribute to a sustainable supermarket. The 10x faster price update speed will ensure that products from the shelf will match the prices in the register, reducing misscans and product returns. The 7-page information display will be able to provide consumers with a wealth of information, including allergen warnings, ingredient lists, and expiration dates. The 7-color LED can be programmed to help supermarket employees take note of shelf life, expiration dates, and stocking levels. All of these, plus a lot more features, can contribute to food waste reduction, omnichannel grocery, and operational efficiency.
Even bigger supermarket chains can explore the use of mobile apps. This can help inform customers about discounted items that are nearing their expiration dates, and encourage more people to buy produce and other products. Modern technologies like these will help supermarkets stay on top of their operations and avoid wasting food.
#6 Improve inventory management
Supermarkets can utilize advanced inventory management systems to track product shelf life, manage stock levels, and reduce overstocking. One solution is to utilize digital labels that have their label management system. Newton ESL has a label management system known as Aims, which helps retailers oversee digital labels, prices, content and price information, stock levels, and more. This will be beneficial in keeping track of every label and the status of every product in the supermarket.
#7 Leverage data and analytics
With a label management system like Newton ESL’s Aims, a sustainable supermarket will also be able to leverage data and analytics. These can be used to know more about the buying interests of customers, waste patterns, and stocking information—all of which can be combined and analyzed to minimize food waste. The supermarket will be able to know which products or brands are not doing well, so they can adjust their future supplies. They will also be able to predict demand and ensure that they have just the right amount of stock.
#8 Make use of donation programs
An eco-friendly supermarket can also develop partnerships with local food banks, charities, or non-profit organizations to donate surplus but still edible food. They can establish a system to regularly donate items approaching their expiration date. This way, not only will they be able to reduce food waste, but they will also be engaging with other businesses, and giving back to the community.
To create an eco-friendly supermarket, retailers must be ready to change their practices and implement robust solutions that will enhance their operations. Keep these methods in mind as you try to achieve better sustainability for your business.
Thinking about implementing a digital label solution for your eco-friendly supermarket? Talk to SOLUM experts now and find out how Newton ESL can make your supermarket more sustainable.