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In the Save Food Packaging & Food Waste session at this year’s Australian Institute of Packaging virtual conference, the four panellists remarked on the inroads being made while stressing the scale of what needs to be done in meeting the halving food waste by 2030 goal.

The panel was:

  • FIAL manager food sustainability Sam Oakden
  • Fight Food Waste CRC Reduce program leader Dr Karli Verghese
  • AIP executive director Nerida Kelton
  • Natural Evolution managing director Krista Watkins

FIAL manager food sustainability Sam Oakden highlighted food waste generation is not evenly dispersed across the supply and consumption chain. Primary production accounts for 31 per cent, manufacturing 24 per cent and households 34 per cent.

While there is a social imperative for tackling food loss and waste – at least once a week, three in 10 food insecure Australians go a whole day without eating – there are bigger macro trends also demanding food waste action. These include increasing global population, a growing middle class, increased urbanisation, climate risk to the food system and the goal to alleviate poverty.

Within the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, number 12 is sustainable consumption and production, with one of its targets to halve global per capita food waste by 2030.

From a local context, Oakden outlined the critical steps in achieving that goal, including the feasibility study and investment strategy already underway.

A voluntary commitment program can act as a vehicle to encourage collaboration throughout the whole food value chain, provide new data and insights and also drive the pace and scale of change.

For Associate Professor Dr Karli Verghese, the last two years have been significant and encouraging – from the formation of the Fight Food Waste CRC (Verghese is the program leader of its Reduce project) to having a portfolio of products up and running.

She outlined a range of research projects currently being undertaken, including Direct Commercialisation, a business ready, digital, cloud-based food waste tool to assist industry reducing food loss and waste.

Verghese also spoke about the need to understand the perception and use of packaging by consumers to design improved packaging and communication to help reduce food waste.

This was reiterated by AIP executive director Nerida Kelton, who talked about the need to look at total life cycle assessment of the product and the packaging.

She spoke about the optimum pack design, which was a balance between under and over packing and negative or minimal environmental impact.

Kelton talked about the Save Food Packaging Design Project and how it looked at primary, secondary and tertiary supply chains and the five design goals that cover product safety and integrity, convenience, inform and meet sustainability targets.

Krista Watkins spoke about how her business started with an idea and now encompasses four businesses and enviable growth.

Krista Watkins discussed the trajectory of developing several businesses that focus on repurposing food that would otherwise go to waste. There is a design business Evolution Industries and three brand businesses – Natural Evolutions (baking products), Plantation Brew Co (alcohol) and Guthealth (functional nutrition).

Watkins discussed the challenges of developing products in entirely new market categories, educating consumers, and managing labour, energy and transport costs to ensure the end product is affordable let alone viable.

The result is a company very good at taking excess product, using innovative solutions to make a product to then bring to market.

Watkins said they always wanted their technology and learnings to help other horticultural industries, and that is now occurring.

The panel said several reports and lots of resources will be released in the next couple of months.

Kelton said that ultimately waste is waste and carries heavy environmental impacts. Conversations at all stages of the supply chain have to align and come closer together for lasting solutions.

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