“Companies in the food industry can save money by investing in measures to prevent food waste, while at the same time contributing to solving not only climate but also global food issues," says Bas Rüter, Director of Sustainability at Rabobank.
According to Rüter, the problem of food waste, and in particular food loss at the start of the supply chain, is being underestimated. Take for example the long waiting times for transferring agricultural export products to ships at a North Brazilian port. “The wait can take up to two months. A lot can go wrong with food in that time."
Research by Rabobank shows that in Europe alone, a staggering 60 billion euros in value is lost during the production and distribution of food. On top of that, European consumers throw away food worth 30 billion euros.
Rüter feels that tackling food loss should start with farmers in developing countries. Investing in replanting, logistics and transfer could mitigate loss and lead to a higher yield per hectare. “It means giving millions of farmers in developing countries the opportunity to invest in more sustainable production.”
Innovation in the food and agricultural sector is vital as the world’s population continues to grow and people live longer. That means an increased demand for food, but without additional agricultural land becoming available.
"Food loss at the start of the supply chain is underestimated”- Bas Rüter, Rabobank Director of Sustainability
Rabobank’s research also shows that it makes commercial sense for businesses to invest in solutions. European businesses can save up to 5 billion euros a year through innovations in harvesting and storage of newly harvested crops. A further 5 billion euros can be saved through innovations in packaging and better monitoring for freshness.
Anyone reducing food loss increases their competitiveness. As an example, Rüter cites a new type of packaging which makes it possible to transport fresh salmon by boat from Chile to Europe. "That means undercutting a competitor who uses air transport." However, interdependencies in the chain form a major obstacle. If a retailer wants to reduce food waste, someone else will have to invest – in better packaging, for example. This other party must have the resources to make that investment and be able to price his goods accordingly, without losing customers. That is why Rabobank wants to bring partners in the supply chain together.
Rabobank also highlights innovations so that clients can inspire each other. For instance, It’s Fresh! developed a filter that absorbs ethylene, making it possible to keep avocados and other produce fresh for longer. Another customer, Liquid Seal, produces a liquid, biodegradable coating for fruits. This also extends the life span.
Bas Rüter (far right)
Rüter: "We like to share such knowledge about innovations with customers, as well as our knowledge of doing business in a circular economy. We make customers aware of the possibilities and how to benefit from them.”
This is a translation of an article that was previously published on RTL Z, the website of a Dutch business and financial news channel.