Tackling food waste
Average read time: 8 minutes
No one should experience daily hunger and undernourishment, and especially not in a world where billions of tonnes of edible food is wasted each year. We're working for a future where zero food is wasted.
Food loss and waste is a global crisis with one-third of all food produced globally lost or discarded. As one of the world’s biggest food producers, we want to protect and preserve food – for everyone across our value chain – starting in our own operations. Our brands are also raising awareness about the impacts of food waste and inspiring people to waste less.
We’re working for a future without food loss or waste by halving food waste in our operations, by inspiring consumers to rethink their relationship with leftover food, and partnering with others for global reform of the food system.
Future Foods: our plan to tackle waste in the food system
We want to help shape a global food system that is fair for everyone. That’s why we launched our Future Foods initiative – it’s our plan to help people transition towards healthier diets and reduce the environmental impact of the food chain.
Our goal is to halve food waste in our global direct operations – from factory to shelf – by 2025. That’s five years earlier than we’d previously committed.
Through our Future Foods initiative, we’ll also ramp up plant-based meat and dairy alternatives and we’ve set ambitious nutrition targets too.
Our food waste commitments
- Halve food waste in our direct operations by 2025
- Zero waste to landfill and no good food destroyed
- Enrol key supply partners to follow our lead and tackle food loss and waste in their operations
- Help foodservice customers to tackle food waste through prevention and redistribution
- Through our brands, help consumer waste less food at home
Only if we tackle food loss and waste can we feed the world within planetary boundaries; mitigate climate change; and relieve pressure on natural resources. The bigger impact and responsibility of Unilever lies in our ability to influence our suppliers and customers to follow our lead and, particularly consumers, to waste less food.Hanneke Faber, President, Foods & Refreshment
Halving food waste in our own operations
We’ve committed to halving food waste in our operations by 2025, from 2019 levels, as part of the Champions 12.3 initiative. We’re also aiming to send zero food waste to landfill and ensure no good food is destroyed.
Our focus is on making sure no expired products or ingredients are thrown away or wasted in our operations. We want everyone in our business to be a food waste warrior and spot any opportunity to save food. Food-saving techniques we’re using include manufacturing fixes and circular economy approaches. For instance, if our ice cream packaging lines stop working, we store the ice cream safely so it can be packaged when the lines are fixed, rather than letting it become food waste. We also make sure we use every bit of raw materials so they’re not wasted.
Accurate data is crucial to our food waste reduction programme. We follow the Target-Measure-Act approach from Champions 12.3 to ensure that we’re measuring and managing food waste in a meaningful way. The Global Food Loss and Waste Standard guides our methodology for accounting and reporting on how much food is lost or wasted in our manufacturing operations.
We’ll continue to publicly communicate our food waste data in our global Unilever Food Waste Report (PDF 341KB) (Opens in a new window) each year.
Food saving brand innovations
Our brands are finding innovative ways to save food waste. We’ve a rich history of putting by-products to good use, pioneered by some of our oldest and most loved brands since last century.
Turning ice cream from ‘waste’ to delicious taste
Unused ice cream from the flavour changeover during production of Cremissimo is now a new taste hero. Unused ice cream is blended with high-quality ingredients and put back into the production line to make the delicious Cremissimo Chocolate Hero. It’s made from 40% would-be wasted ice cream, saving over 300,000 tubs a year.
Helping consumers cut food waste
No one feels good about throwing food away. Yet around 40-45% of food waste happens in people’s homes – so it’s clear we can do more to support consumers to change habits and attitudes.
We're using our brands to reach consumers and help them cut waste through great products and innovative ideas.
Hellmann’s inspires people to taste not waste
Food thrown away at home contributes 40% of global food waste. That’s why Hellmann’s is on a mission to make people feel good about food and love their leftovers.
Here are five ways Hellmann’s is encouraging people to eat well and save waste:
- Recipes to fight food waste: Inspiring people to turn simple leftover ingredients into delicious meals with recipe suggestions from the helping fight food waste (Opens in a new window) campaign.
- Creating fridge heroes: Encouraging 100 million customers in Brazil – and beyond – to see value in their fridge leftovers. In Bring Your Own Food (Opens in a new window) restaurants across the world, celebrity chefs turned diners’ leftover ingredients into five-star meals using Hellmann’s.
- Gaming for good: Partnering with Nintendo in Canada to get Animal Crossing gamers to exchange virtual food waste for donations to a real-life food rescue charity.
- Mixing it up for new flavours: Creating exciting new dishes from store cupboard staples, leftover ingredients and Hellmann’s such as vegan mayo gnocchi and mayo brownies in the #MixItUp campaign in the UK.
- Understanding the root of food waste: Conducting in-depth research into why people waste food at home with over 1,000 families over five weeks in Canada. The results will help Hellmann’s take the next big step to inspire consumer behaviour change on food waste.
Hellmann’s will inspire and enable 100 million
consumers every year to 2025 to be more resourceful with their food at home, and so waste less
Good food can get thrown away simply because date labels on food packaging are confusing. We’re working with others to make it easier for consumers to understand if their food is safe and stop food being unnecessarily thrown away. We want to see harmonised regulations that set 'use-by' dates for foods with shorter durability on the basis of safety, and 'best-before' dates for foods with longer durability on the grounds of quality.
Our brands also partner with others to make sure surplus food isn’t wasted. We work with the food waste app Too Good to Go (Opens in a new window) to help connect people with surplus food from restaurants and shops, at discounted prices in several countries.
We don’t have to persuade people that food waste is wrong. We just have to give people tools so that they can use what they have better.Christina Bauer-Plank, Global Brand Vice President, Hellmann’s
Partnering for a world without food waste
We view partnership as the new leadership and we’re embracing collaboration with others for change – that includes suppliers, retailers, our peers and governments. Together we are advocating for food system reform to address food waste, food insecurity and mitigate climate change. We know we’ve got a long way to go.
As a member of the Champions 12.3 10x20x30 coalition, a global coalition of leaders from governments, businesses and civil society, we’ve committed to halve food waste. Together, we’re calling for:
- Countries with more than 95% of the global population to set specific food loss and waste reduction targets by 2021, and to have a quantified baseline and report progress by 2027.
- Harmonised regulations that set 'use-by' dates for foods with shorter durability on the basis of safety, and 'best-before' dates for foods with longer durability on the grounds of quality.
The smart tech solution to weigh food and reduce waste
No one is immune to wasting food – not even the professionals. Billions of meals are thrown away by the hospitality industry and as much as half of all food is wasted in parts of the sector.
Our foodservice business, Unilever Food Solutions (UFS), teamed up with digital provider Orbisk to develop a super smart camera and scale to tackle kitchen waste. The camera and scale sit under an organic waste container and use artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly identify and log every bit of food thrown away.
This data helps our foodservice customers, such as restaurants and hotels, adapt their menus and change their buying patterns to prevent waste and boost profits. We’ve already helped customers across 30 sites in the Netherlands halve their food waste.
Redirecting surplus food to where it’s needed
Unilever Food Solutions (UFS), our foodservice business, is also helping chefs and caterers cut their food waste and save money with the Wise Up on Waste app. Launched in the UK with the facilities services provider, ISS Food & Hospitality (F&H), the app allows chefs to track and reduce food waste. For example, in the UK, regular use of the app has enabled participating chefs to reduce food waste by an average of 15-20% and we’re growing use of the app across Europe.
In Australia and New Zealand, our Food Collective (Opens in a new window) loyalty programme in partnership with local charities Oz Harvest (Opens in a new window) and Kiwi Harvest (Opens in a new window) rescue excess food and redirect to those who need it.
In the Netherlands, Unilever Food Solutions is using leftovers to create delicious soups served in food banks with support from social enterprises Samen Tegen (Opens in a new window) and Soupalicious (Opens in a new window).
In the US & Canada, Hellmann’s has worked with a number of partners to help rescue would-be-wasted food and deliver it to people in need. A partnership with Feeding America has seen 1.2 million pounds of food rescued in 2020, enough to feed more than 200,000 US families in need. And the Real Food Rescue program in Canada has redistributed over 150,000 meals from surplus to where the food was most needed.