Focus on consumers to reduce food waste
2014 will be the European year against food waste, and will focus on increasing awareness of sustainability and food waste among consumers. Consumers play a major part in producing food waste in the food value chain: it is estimated that around 25% of all food that is purchased is being thrown away, and that 15% of perishables is wasted in grocery stores because they are not accepted by consumers due to lack in product quality. This means there is a potential to significantly reduce food waste by targeting the consumer.
COSUS focuses on suboptimal food: food that deviates in sensory characteristics (odd shapes, discolourations) or that has a best-before date that is approaching or has passed, but is still perfectly fine to eat, such as odd-shaped cucumbers, bread with broken crust, discoloured apples, and yoghurt and cheese past the best-before date. Suboptimal food makes up a significant share of consumer-related food waste.
Analyse - Experiment -Test
COSUS will use an approach that includes three steps: 1) analyse the issue through literature review, case studies and transnational focus groups and survey; 2) experiments that investigate environmental influences on consumer acceptance of suboptimal foods, including communication, sensory perceptions, social interactions and financial incentives; and 3) test strategies that encourage acceptance of suboptimal foods. In parallel there will be analyses and experiments that investigate barriers to and opportunities toward an improved handling of suboptimal food in the food supply chain.
COSUS is funded by ERA-Net SUSFOOD, and will run between June 2014 and May 2017. 6 full partners and 1 associated partner in 5 countries are involved in the project. Countries involved are Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany. The project consists of eight work packages.