KANSAS CITY — According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, up to one-third of food produced is wasted each year. This is due in part to perfectly safe food being thrown away during outbreak scares.

Seattle-based supply chain specialist iFoodDS is one of the companies providing traceability solutions to isolate affected food down to the farm and lot level, which can help reduce waste as a result of outbreaks and product recalls.

“Environmental impacts are becoming more and more important as we think about preserving this Earth,” said Jenny Obranovich, iFoodDS’s senior marketing manager. “We should be aware of these impacts, such as methane gas from discarded food sitting in landfills, wasted freshwater used to produce that food, and spent energy used to produce, process, and transport food that never gets eaten.”

The problem of food security has only been magnified during the recent pandemic. Many people — including Americans — don’t have enough to eat, Obranovich said, yet we’re wasting a significant amount of food for often preventable reasons.

At the grocery store, consumers often buy more than they need and end up throwing it away when they can’t eat it before it goes bad, she said. People put a lot of weight on quality and freshness, which makes it critical to provide high-quality produce to prevent waste in store or at home.

“Produce — and other fresh foods — is often rejected due to poor quality or visual defects. It’s often thrown away by suppliers and retailers when it could be sent elsewhere, such as to a foodbank or wholesaler.”

Consumers are often unable to determine the quality of produce through packaging, so they may end up throwing it away when they get home and find substandard quality product inside the package.

That said, many grocery stores and their fresh suppliers have made huge strides when it comes to preventing food waste, said Minos Athanassiadis, iFoodDS’s vice president of supply chain.

Many grocery retailers and their suppliers, he said, are bringing on the right technology to:

  • Automate and improve the inspection process at each step of the supply chain, from grower to retailer’s stores.
  • Use data to help both growers and grocery retailers anticipate quality problems prior to shipment
  • Bolster customer loyalty by consistently meeting quality standards

There are also ways in which supermarkets can pick up their games in this area, Athanassiadis said. They include:

  • Invest in the right technology if they don’t already have it
  • Standardize inspection processes between both distribution centers and individual inspectors to improve consistency and efficiency
  • Identify quality issues sooner so that grocery retailers don’t have to choose between selling low quality product, spending extra labor to trim and cull product in store, marking it down to sell quickly, or tossing it.
  • Only accept and ship appropriate quality product to retailers. Find a home right away for lower quality produce (foodbanks, wholesalers) to limit waste

IFoodDS offers a Quality Insights solution for retailers and distributors including Ahold Delhaize, Meijer and US Foods, as well as for grower-packer-shippers like Camposol.

The Quality Insights solution helps facilitate and track quality inspections so that food that doesn’t meet supplier or retailer standards but is still edible and nutritious can be sent elsewhere, like a food bank or wholesaler, Athanassiadis said.

“The result is improved supplier relationships and more consistency in meeting quality standards over time, continuing to contribute to a reduction in food waste.”

IFoodDS also offer a food safety solution that helps prevent issues that can lead to recalls and result in dumped product, resulting in less food waste and overall safer products for consumers to eat.

The company’s software platform has been tracking produce quality for its retailer customers for many years, and each of those retailers have been inspecting thousands of items on a daily basis for all those years.

As a result, Obranovich said, iFoodDS has the largest database of images of product quality variability data across most products. This data provides predictive analytics and enables the company to identify trends for its customers at an aggregate level.

“Our connected food safety, traceability, and quality solutions enable us to offer a comprehensive solution for the full supply chain, from grower to consumer,” she said. “While what we offer is important, how we serve our customers is just as important to us, which is why we look at ourselves as true partners through the entire onboarding process, and throughout our relationship with each and every customer.”

Food waste fighter Apeel secures new funding

Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Apeel, whose shelf-life extending technologies help retailers fight food waste, has secured $250 million in Series E funding led by returning investor Temasek. The company's total funding now exceeds $635 million, with a valuation over $2 billion dollars.

"The pandemic has completely shaken up food retail: people are increasingly buying their fresh produce online, while simultaneously expecting the best in terms of quality and sustainability," said James Rogers, CEO of Apeel. "We'll use our latest funding to help our supplier and retailer partners offer a differentiated experience to their shoppers: high-quality produce that's less likely to go to waste at home. By using solutions by nature and for nature, and in collaboration with food supply chain partners around the world, we can ensure people everywhere have a great experience with their fresh produce while increasing the sustainability of the global food system."

Food waste accounts for roughly 8% of global greenhouse gases, which makes reducing it the most impactful action people can take to fight climate change, Rogers said.

This new investment will be used in part to accelerate Apeel's partnerships and plant-based products that aim to prevent food waste at every step of the fresh food supply chain, including for the consumer at home where approximately 25% of produce purchased goes to waste in American households.

Apeel will also use its new funding to co-create new supply networks with produce suppliers and retailers that will increase the availability of longer-lasting produce, including avocados, limes, mangoes, cucumbers, apples and more, for consumers across the U.S., U.K., and Europe.