Hellmann’s, Del Monte, Eat Just & others elevate sustainability efforts to celebrate Earth month

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/towfiqu ahamed
Source: Getty/towfiqu ahamed

Related tags: Sustainability, Packaging, Food waste

As Earth Day month draws to a close, food and beverage manufacturers are celebrating efforts to reduce food waste, in their factories and in consumers’ homes, through increasingly creative and data-backed initiatives, including Hellmann’s ‘fridge night’ challenge and flexipes and Del Monte's upcycling efforts.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, 30-40% of food is waste annually, which Dole says “has devastating consequences for people and the planet”​ with millions of people going hungry while rotting food in landfills contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

To notably reduce greenhouse gas emissions from wasted and lost food, both manufacturers and consumers will need to be more resourceful with food – whether it is repurposing last night’s leftovers into something more exciting or redirecting would be byproducts into innovative and desirable products.

Hellmann’s helps consumers make the most of groceries with its condiments

Knowing that the bulk of food waste – 61% -- occurs in the home, Hellmann’s teamed with behavior scientists at BEworks to develop and test “simple interventions” that consumers can use at home to half their food waste.

Working with nearly 500 US families, Hellmann’s encouraged participants to use the brand’s 3+1 preparation framework and a library of “flexipes”​ to create a weekly “use-up meal” ​on “Fridge Night.”

The “flexible recipes” shared by Hellmann’s used commonly wasted or leftover ingredients and followed a format that combined a kitchen staple, such as rice or bread, with produce that might be waste, and a protein with a “’magic touch’ in the form of a spice or sauce to bring the dish together,”​ the company said.

While simple, these interventions helped study participants reduce their food waste by 46% in four weeks with 70% saying that they found the methods easy to incorporate into their lives, according to Hellmann’s. In addition, 88% of participants said they felt more resourceful in the kitchen and others says they learned new techniques to make new meals without sacrificing the joy of cooking or eating.

The pilot complemented the brand’s other efforts to reduce food waste, including a Super Bowl ad that was part of a larger “make taste, not waste” a campaign that will continue through 2022.

Hellmann’s is making its flexipes and Fridge Night app available now for download in the US and in the UK later this year. It is already available in the US.

Del Monte diverts more than 25 million pounds of food from landfills in two years

Food isn’t just wasted at home, it is lost at nearly every point in the supply chain – and food manufacturers increasingly are striving to save viable food – including byproducts, so-called ugly produce and perfectly safe and delicious food that is too near its expiration date to sell at traditional retail outlets.

One of the most effective ways for food manufacturers to reduce waste is through upcycling, according to Del Monte, which redirected approximately 600,000 pounds of surplus green beans last year through its Del Monte Blue Lake Petite Cute and Blue Lake Farmhouse Cut Green Beans products, which were the first canned vegetables to be Upcycled Certified by the Upcycled Food Association.

The company says it also recently began repurposing syrup from its boba and pineapple product lines in its new line of Del Monte Fruit Infusion cups that blend functional ingredients and produce in a convenient format. Other creative ways it gets the most out of produce is by diverting apricot pits for use in beauty products and fruit pulp to juice.

These efforts, combined with donating produce to those facing food insecurity through a partnership with Feeding America, Del Monte says it has diverted more than 25 million pounds of food from landfills in the past two years.

Beyond food waste reduction

Food and beverage manufacturers aren’t stopping at food waste reduction. They also are revamping packaging to be more sustainable, advocating for increased transparency and ‘egging on’ Congress to more aggressively confront climate change through legislation while simultaneously raising brand awareness.

For example, Once Again Nut Butter, uses jars made with partially recycled glass that meet the highest standards for post-consumer recycled content set by California, Florida and Oregon, according to the company. It also sources jars from an environmentally-friendly supplier that does not use furnaces made from chrome-bearing brick, which must be disposed of in special hazardous facilities.

Thai Union and Chicken of the Sea also are working with their suppliers to not only “infuse sustainability practices” but also increase transparency to ensure accountability and reduce the risk of green-washing.

For example, it is working with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program to develop the SeaChange IGNITE program, The Nature Conservancy to implement 100% ‘on-the-water’ monitoring of its tuna supply chain by 2025, and has jointed the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability to standardize and require increased traceability throughout the industry.

Other players are advocating for legislative efforts to fight climate change.

Hellmann’s, for example, is working with The Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy clinic to advocate for federal legislation to standardize date labelling – a source of confusion for many consumers that leads to safe, edible food being thrown away.

JUST Egg​ also “egged” Congress to take action this month through a campaign that highlighted how its plant-based products are more environmentally friendly than chicken eggs. Efforts included signs, social media posts and sampling in Washington, DC, that urged Congress to do more for the environment and pushed consumers to message their representatives to prioritize climate change reduction.

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