Food waste in the UK is shockingly high, with over 30% of the produce grown in the UK or imported into the country each year going to waste. This happens frequently because it does not fit the physical criteria for suppliers and supermarkets – in other words, it’s too ugly!
According to WRAP (2018), 1.1 million tonnes of food waste is generated by the UK Hospitality and Food Service Sector each year, 75% of which could be avoided. These misshapen and discarded fruits and vegetables contribute to the £1 Trillion of global food waste each year.
As a business we are proud to have saved sixty-two thousand kilos of fresh fruits and vegetables from going to waste during the October to December 2019 trial. When you consider that the average man in the UK weighs sixty-two kilos, it means we have saved the equivalent weight of one thousand people in just three months … pretty impressive!
Our Executive Development Chef for B&I, Dan Kirkpatrick, gives an insight into the campaign and its effects.
What has your journey been like?
I started my journey five years ago with Academy, before the business was acquired by Atalian Servest. I moved from a Regional Development Chef position with Academy, to Executive Development Chef in January 2019.
What is it about food wastage that people don’t know but should?
Food waste is a critical issue across the globe which requires immediate action. I think the facts speak for themselves; one-third of the produce grown in the UK each year doesn’t leave the field often because it is deemed as ugly, even though it tastes the same as its more beautiful siblings.
Food waste costs £1 Trillion globally each year and a quarter of the world’s food waste – 900 million tonnes – would end world hunger. The average UK household wastes £700 on food each year. And it’s not just food that gets wasted, a quarter of the worlds water supply each year, is needed to produce the amount of food we currently waste.
How did the ‘Ugly Vegetables’ project start?
While researching and writing Wasteline, our in-house food waste manual, I was stunned by some of the facts and statistics which I stumbled across, and I had to do something about it. How can it be right that there are people dying from hunger, yet we are turning perfectly good produce over in a field because it’s too fat or too long? It’s utter madness!
I decided we should start close to home, and for me that meant supporting local British farmers. We teamed up with our fresh fruit and vegetable supplier to work out a plan of action! Working closely together, we devised a plan to work with local farmers to offer them a fair price for the 40% of their produce which doesn’t even leave the field. We decided upon a trial period for all parties involved and chose twelve seasonal fruits and vegetables for the October – December festive period.
We prevented sites from ordering Class One alternatives and created one hundred recipes using the Ugly Fruit and Vegetable range to help everyone to get involved. During this trial period, Atalian Servest saved sixty-two thousand kilos of fresh fruits and vegetables from going to landfill. I guess you could say that the trial has been a success for all parties!
How has the business benefitted from this?
Initially we received our fair share of criticism for switching to what is effectively a Class Two product. Our fresh fruit and vegetable supplier team joined us at all our Winter Roadshows, showcasing the full range of our twelve selected product lines to our teams. Once everybody had seen the products for themselves, they simply couldn’t believe that these items would even be considered as Class Two. This was an important turning point for us as a business as our colleagues got on board fully with the initiative.
I worked with our in-house Marketing and Design team to create customer facing posters to be displayed across the catering division with hard-hitting facts about global food waste. We especially highlighted how unnecessary it is to waste perfectly edible produce. Our customers started to understand why we had acted, and the buy-in has been nothing short of fantastic!
Our business and our customers have benefited massively from the Ugly Veg initiative, as we have all been involved in simply “doing the right thing”. There is an upwards trend in people changing their lifestyles to benefit the environment, and our campaign helps our customers make better choices that have a positive impact on the planet.
Atalian Servest should be proud that collectively we have saved the same weight as 2,186,988 bananas from going to landfill, in just three months. We are now looking at ways of how best to communicate these savings across our business, and to continue the initiative.
What impact do you think the sites have had?
Our sites have been the real superstars throughout this whole process, as without their commitment we simply wouldn’t have been able to get this off the ground and make such a difference. From using one of our one hundred Ugly Veg recipes, to creating their own fantastic dishes, our teams have really got on board with all things Ugly. Our onsite teams should be celebrated for showing our customers that Ugly means tasty!
How important is it to raise awareness?
I believe that food waste is an incredibly important topic and I am proud that the business also thinks so. From workshops to roadshows and presentations, it has been heart-warming to see people’s reactions to the changes we are making. When our customers hear facts such as twenty-one million slices of bread are thrown away across the UK every single day, it’s very hard hitting and like us they feel compelled to do something about it. Raising awareness means a real difference has been made.
I am currently working with our key fresh fruit and vegetable supplier to increase the Ugly range and we are looking to introduce new seasonal lines. We are working hard towards our aim of having a food waste day every single week across the division. Our as yet untitled daily concept will allow sites to choose from a recipe database using that month’s Ugly produce range. This will include simple soups, bold soups, meat main courses, vegetarian and vegan main courses, desserts and home bakes.