Worldwide, around one third of all produced foodstuffs are not consumed but thrown away – a huge waste of resources. Agriculture, processing, retail and consumers: the entire value added chain is responsible for this wasteful behaviour.
To underline the topicality of this global theme and to highlight its implications the first day of this year’s interpack sees the holding of the third international SAVE FOOD Congress. This means Messe Düsseldorf will, on 4 May 2017, once again become a hotspot for all those involved in the value added chain committed to combatting food losses and waste.
In an interview Bernd Jablonowski, Global Portfolio Director of Processing and Packaging at Messe Düsseldorf, illustrates the key role played here by the SAVE FOOD Initiative and highlights the new solutions in the packaging industry.
1. Mr Jablonowski, what is the aim of the SAVE FOOD Initiative? Can you briefly outline the idea behind the SAVE FOOD Congress?
It is hard to imagine but one quarter of the some 1.3 billion tons of the food thrown away annually would suffice to feed the starving world population. Food waste by consumers as well as food losses in agriculture, during processing and transportation pose a great and serious problem at the global level. For this reason at interpack 2011, in cooperation with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we called SAVE FOOD into existence. Since then the goal has been to contribute to solving one of the greatest challenges facing humanity: the worldwide fight against food losses and waste. Thanks to the success and great response generated by the first congress at interpack we turned SAVE FOOD into an initiative. This means that since then committed companies as well as individuals have been able to join the fight. Furthermore, the United Nations Environmental Program also joined the fray (UNEP) as a partner. At the same time, over 850 companies, associations, research bodies and NGOs are members of the SAVE FOOD Initiative. 4 May, the first day of interpack 2017, sees the holding of the third SAVE FOOD Congress. It will shed light on the various aspects of food losses and waste from various perspectives. Speakers from a variety of backgrounds will present topical solutions as well as best practice examples. Furthermore, with its varied programme our congress provides the necessary scope for new cooperations. These alliances are incredibly important as the fight against food waste and losses can only be won with combined efforts.
2. SAVE FOOD is presented at interpack this year for the third time. Why is the SAVE FOOD Congress held as part of the leading trade fair for the packaging sector and the related processing industry?
We approached the FAO before founding SAVE FOOD in the run-up to interpack 2011 because we were sure that their international contacts and sectoral knowledge would be ideal for this issue. After all, the packaging sector and the related processing industry can make a great contribution to reducing food waste and losses. In western industrial nations where waste is particularly prevalent smart packaging can, for instance, do this using freshness sensors that complement the sell-by-date. However, registration is necessary by 4 May as only a limited number of tickets are available. These can be obtained from www.save-food.de/ticket.However, processing and packaging technology that extends food shelf life can also ensure less food goes to waste. In developing countries suitable basic solutions are necessary to counter the high levels of food losses. Due to scant infrastructure and lacking (transport) packaging a large proportion is wasted before it even reaches consumers. And this is often the case in spite of already very scarce resources.
PARTICIPATION AT THE SAVE FOOD CONGRESS
Participation at the SAVE FOOD Congress (9.00 am to 6.00 pm) is free-of-charge and not linked to a visit to interpack. However, registration is necessary by 4 May as only a limited number of tickets are available. These can be obtained from www.save-food.de/ticket.
3. What are the core themes at this year’s event and what can speakers and participants look forward to?
This year we shed light on the issue from various different perspectives – from a local to a global perspective. For instance, the FAO presents a study that was conducted in India and funded by contributions to the SAVE FOOD Initiative. This study will analyse the situation surrounding losses on the basis of various basic food types and will highlight ways to reduce these losses. Studies like this that explore all stages of the value added chain and highlight solutions as well as preventive measures are an important basis to curb food losses. One considerable problem is that little is known about where, and to what extent, losses like these arise exactly.At this year’s congress we have top-notch political speakers in Düsseldorf. For instance, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis and Dr. Klaus Heider, Head of the “Food Policy, Product Safety and Innovation” department at the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture will present the federal government’s initiative “Zu gut für die Tonne!” (“Too Good for the Bin”).
Likely to be an exciting contribution will be the presentation by Dr. Prajal Pradhan from the Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities research field at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (LINK: https://www.pik-potsdam.de/institut/index_html?set_language=de). He will shed light on the impact of the world climate problem – after all, food losses and waste are a huge misuse of resources entailing the associated CO2 emissions. With the German director and filmmaker Valentin Thurn and Selina Juul, founder of the charity “Stop Wasting Food” we expect very committed speakers. In their lectures they will provide insights into their work and show their commitment to fighting food waste. The programme will be rounded off by the presentation of several projects each designed for different stages in the value added chain. For instance: Apps to fight food waste in catering or concepts to support local farmers in Nigeria.
4. The 2014 SAVE FOOD Congress demonstrated, amongst other things by using case studies from Kenya, how food losses can be effectively combatted in developing and threshold countries. What has happened since then and how have projects developed?
It is a frightening amount but some 300,000 tons of Kenyan mangos are wasted every year. According to studies presented at the 2014 SAVE FOOD Congress, it is unprotected mangos or mangos being stored too long, slow processing and insufficient protection during transportation that are responsible for the losses. To counter this SAVE FOOD teamed up with the Kenyan self-made company Azuri Health to call the mango project into existence which prevents mango losses with the targeted use of processing and packaging technologies. Thanks to SAVE FOOD funding as well as the expertise and commitment of our members, the project has developed very well and is working towards exporting the dried fruit to Europe. This success story shows that good ideas and combined efforts can make a key contribution to fighting food losses. Furthermore, this proves that with suitable commitment a win-win situation can be achieved for all parties involved. After all, for the companies involved it is not just about the positive move itself but also about opening up new areas of business.
5. Forming and strengthening alliances between all participants in the food value chain is an essential goal of the SAVE FOOD Initiative. What role does the congress play against this backdrop?
Forming alliances is indispensable for the success of projects in their fight against food losses and waste. Because only when industry, agriculture, retailers and politics work closely together can the causes within the value added chain be combatted. As an international event attracting 170,000 visitors from over 160 countries interpack is the ideal location to make contacts. In the years between trade fairs, we also organise so-called SAVE FOOD Meetings in addition to the SAVE FOOD congresses. Here members of the initiative come together to meet branded companies or industrial representatives to exchange ideas and present best cases. So far two events of this kind have been held. The first SAVE FOOD Meeting was held in 2015 at Nestlé in Vevey, Switzerland and the second in collaboration with two Spanish industrial associations in Madrid. This event even counted Spain’s Queen Letizia among its guests.
6. As part of the event on 4 May 2017 the SAVE FOOD School Prize will also be awarded. What is this about and why is it important for young people to explore the topics of food losses and waste?
I consider it hugely important to generate awareness about this key topic early on. Children and young people should, for instance, know that “imperfect-looking” fruit and vegetables can still taste good or that leftovers from lunch do not necessarily need to be thrown away and might be freezable. Very generally, it is about conveying the value of food. With the SAVE FOOD School Prize, we encourage schoolchildren in Years 8, 9 and 10 to think about how our society can waste less food. The schoolchildren present their ideas in the innovationparc special show at interpack. The best ideas are then awarded a prize at the SAVE FOOD Congress.
7. The innovationparc will be devoted to the SAVE FOOD theme over the entire duration of the trade fair. What is in store for visitors here?
At the innovationparc some 20 companies will present their solutions and products aimed at fighting food losses and waste. Furthermore, there will also be a lecture forum featuring lectures by the participating companies and organisations for the entire duration of the trade fair. The exhibits also include the finalists’ entries in the WorldStar Award, presented for the first time this year in the SAVE FOOD category by the World Packaging Organization (WPO). The winners will be presented their awards as part of the SAVE FOOD Congress. The innovationparc is held on approx. 2,500m2 in a premium marquee facility located between Halls 2 and 3.
8. Packaging technologies can make a considerable contribution to smart solutions for preventing food losses and waste. What approaches are there in this area?
In western industrialised nations where food waste poses the main problem, smart packaging of this kind with in-built sensors can, along with sell-by-dates, ensure less goes to waste. Sensors like this can, for instance, be time-temperature indicators that show the cool chain was not interrupted. But there are also special films that change colour when the product has spoiled. If these look normal the food can still be consumed without any concerns even beyond the sell-by-date. In addition to these smart packaging approaches all technologies that extend product shelf life also contribute to the reduction of waste. There are lots of exciting innovations in store that will be on display at interpack 2017.
9. Worldwide 1.3 b tons of food are wasted per year. In what part of the value chain do you see the greatest potential for fighting food waste?
That very much depends on the region of the world and the type of food involved. As I said before, new technologies and packaging solutions play a key role in industrial nations and smaller packaging sizes for the rising number of single-person households can be a sensible measure in many regions. In developing countries where most food is lost in the early stages of the value chain before and after the harvest, basic solutions for the processing and packaging of foods can help. These are often lacking, which means even sensitive products are exposed to sometimes extreme climatic conditions or pests and therefore perish quickly. Add to this the lacking infrastructure with difficult logistics often without functioning cool chains.
10. Finally, we would love to hear your forecast: how and when will there be a rethink in the approach to fighting food losses? Do you think in the future we will manage to only produce as much food as is eaten?
The rethink in our approach to food has to happen among all those involved in the food value chain – from the political sphere and agriculture to retail and to us as consumers. Politicians are called upon to create suitable framework conditions while for agriculture resource-saving cultivation and combatting losses are at the forefront. Retail, on the other hand, must shape its ranges and supply chain management in such a way that food losses are curbed. Importantly, we as consumers are also called upon to be more aware in our use of food and to be clear that by opting to only buy visually perfect fruit and vegetables we are directly impacting the early stages of the value chain. Only if all of us as stakeholders pull together can we ensure there are less food losses and waste in the future. Reducing the figures to zero is obviously not realistic but any avoidance of waste is an active step to conserving the limited resources of our planet.