According to a recent UN report, one-third (1.3 billion tons) of the world’s food is wasted each year.  The report, entitled Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, analyzes the environmental impacts of global food wastage, but also highlights the significant economic impact to food producers – $750 billion in costs annually.

In the report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) attributes food loss costs as follows: vegetables 23%; meat 21%, fruits 19%; and cereals 18% percent. According to the FAO, meat (excluding fish and seafood) accounts for only 4% of total food wastage, but 20% of the total economic costs of food waste due to high producer cost.  Conversely, total costs attributed to cereals are driven mostly by high food wastage volumes.  The report calls for further research to quantify food waste costs along the food supply chain.

One such study was conducted by RMIT University’s Centre for Design in Australia. In addition to addressing the causes and sources of food waste along the supply chain, this study identifies opportunities for greater food security through improved design and use of packaging.  For example, the RMIT study suggests that spoilage during distribution could be offset by increasing use of retail ready packaging to reduce double-handling.

In connection with the release of these results, RMIT Senior Research Fellow Dr. Karli Verghese stated: “Packaging actually plays a critical role in protecting fresh produce and processed food in transit, in storage, at point of sale and prior to consumption. In doing so it helps deliver a wide range of functions while reducing food waste.”

In May 2014, packaging professionals from around the world will gather in Düsseldorf, Germany to attend interpack 2014, the world’s largest packaging trade show.  One of the conference’s regular forums, Innovationparc Packaging, focuses on forward-looking themes which, this year, will be the prevention of worldwide food loss and waste through advanced packaging technologies. Specifically, this program will focus on SAVE FOOD, a joint initiative of FAO and Messe Düsseldorf GmbH.  Participating companies will showcase innovations in packaging, including design, materials and production, which could reduce food loss and food waste along the food value chain.

As worldwide demand for food grows, so will the necessity for sustainable methods of production, distribution, storage and delivery.  Innovation in packaging design and packaging products will play a role in curtailing global food waste and reducing associated costs to food producers.