Does where you live in the world affect how much food you waste?

Published on : 11/18/20
  • Food brings people together – it plays a central role in the daily lives and relationships of every person on the planet.

    Food production accounts for most of the water we consume, as well as significant portions of land we occupy and the greenhouse gases we emit. 

    One third of the food produced is being wasted around the world which means that producing food that ultimately goes to waste accounts for the use of about 5.4 million square miles of land and 66 trillion gallons of water annually.

    Our recent study, 2020 Sodexo Food Waste Consumer Insights Research, has shown that people perceive food waste differently, depending on which country they live in. 

    French respondents claim to be most concerned about food waste

    French respondents tended to be much more vocal about their concern regarding environmental issues and especially food waste. We noticed this across both the quantitative survey and field observations in collective restaurants.

    Although we observed similar patterns of food waste in France as in other countries, there was a more pronounced engagement with the topic of food waste in France.

    French students, in particular, were more vocal about food-related issues such as over-packaging, vegetarian options, local choices and food waste. French students even and organized discussion groups and actions amongst themselves.

    Food waste was the top of mind in France compared to United States and United Kingdom where food waste was only the fourth mentioned (after the Price, Freshness and the amount of fat in food). 

    North American respondents see food waste as an expensive problem

    In North America, participants estimate that they waste more food in monetary terms. In interviews Canadians and Americans talked about buying in bulk, a shopping habit which is less common in European countries. During our interviews, both Canadians and Americans shared their difficulties in planning their meals and reported significant food waste at home which is really clear from the estimated cost of food wasted per week.

    Consumers expect action on food waste from their university or work restaurant 

    Although the majority of respondents agreed that levels of food waste depend on personal action, they expect their university or work restaurant to take significant action in this area.

    Less than half (47%) believe that their restaurant is implementing real actions to help reduce food waste. Field observations showed us that often, customers are unaware of the whole suite of actions being taken by the restaurant. Some countries were more vocal or actively engaged in pursuing this topic than others, such as France.

    In fact, people living in France perceive that more food is being wasted in their work or university restaurants compared to other countries. This same group also felt that their work or university restaurants are not doing enough to reduce waste. 

    Perception of food value varies between different parts of the world

    Globally, the more expensive or more valued food types are wasted less.

    When asked about this topic, uniquely, respondents from the United Kingdom mentioned the habit of always finishing what was on their plate. Respondents from all other countries quoted the top three types of food they commonly waste are: bread, vegetables and rice or pasta.

    Through this survey, we gained a further understanding of the perception of and behaviors around food waste in work and university restaurants. We hope to improve how food services providers can engage with consumers and identify solutions to prevent food waste.


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