Unilever lifts lid on consumer waste in food service

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Food waste campaign

Food waste campaign

Unilever’s food service division, Unilever Food Solutions, has released research about consumer attitudes to food waste when going out for a meal. 

The study found, when it comes to leaving food on their plate when eating out, people from Belfast are the most wasteful in the UK.

However, when it comes to clearing their plates, people who live in Worcester are the most conscientious and most of the time will eat everything in front of them.

The research forms part of Unilever’s United Against Waste campaign. Unilever commissioned OnePoll to conduct research across 29 towns and cities in the UK to get consumers’ attitudes to the amount of food that gets wasted when dining out. 

According to the company, this research backs up its call on the food industry to join forces and work with chefs, restaurants and consumers to take action and address the issue of reducing avoidable food waste.

Unilever Food Solutions invited more than 100 of the industry’s biggest players and trade associations to its global headquarters in London to debate how to tackle the issue of avoidable food waste.

When it comes to leaving food on the plate the UK’s top 10 are:

1.                Belfast

2.                Brighton and Hove

3.                Cardiff

4.                Chelmsford

5.                Norwich

6.                Wolverhampton

7.                Birmingham

8.                Portsmouth

9.                Oxford

10.             Newcastle

In the UK 400,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste is thrown away every year when we eat out, the study found. This equates to 65% in the kitchen, when chefs are preparing our food, and 30% from consumers leaving food on their plate. 

Overall, the foodservice industry is throwing £722m worth of food away every year or 21 tonnes per eatery, said Unilever. 

Tracey Rogers, managing director Unilever Food Solutions, said: “The phrase waste not want not comes to mind. Findings from our World Menu Report tell us consumers are concerned about the amount of food that is wasted when eating out and we know that if given the option they’d leave items they didn’t want off of their order.  

“The industry has got a huge role to play and we must work together to achieve concrete results. Some caterers are already reducing avoidable food waste very effectively and we have also launched a toolkit for reducing food waste, Wise up on Waste, which will help caterers to make their businesses more efficient. Together we must be united and share best practice so we can tackle the issues head on.”

The UK research conducted into the eating out habits of the country revealed when it comes to food waste when eating out women are more concerned about the issue than men. This might be due to the fact men are much more unlikely to leave anything on their plate, said Unilever. Over half the men surveyed said they always eat everything served up in front of them.

However, men are more particular about what they eat, 12% of men cited bad food as a reason for leaving something compared to only 8% of women.

Age is also an important factor, the study found. The older generation are more likely to clear their plate and young people are more likely to order more than they can eat, and yet feel the most guilty when they cannot eat it.

When questioned about whether they’d like to be given the opportunity to leave something off their order they know they’re not going to eat, 8/10 women and 7/10 men said they would and they’d be willing to pay the same price.  Sixty per cent of people also stated the reason they leave food on their plate is because they are too full.