COVID 19 & Food Waste

Friday 22 May 2020

The cold chain plays an incredibly important role in the food chain and this has been highlighted more than ever over the past few months.  With just over 53% of what we eat being produced in the UK (with a lower for fruit and vegetables), the function of the cold chain is paramount in getting food to our tables.  The global food system has been exposed to levels of disruption not seen since World War II, placing huge pressure on the cold chain.  However, this has meant many people rethinking their food and its availability.    

Since the beginning of the lockdown restrictions a great deal has changed in the buying habits of UK households.  There was the initial frantic buying in the first month, but now things appear to have smoothed out a bit, with better practices being developed.     

According to research, almost half of households in Britain believe they are visiting the shops less frequently but spending more on their food shop since the start of lockdown.  It may be surprising to learn that - despite more being spent on food - the amount of food being wasted has reduced dramatically.  People are now being much more economical with their food purchases and usage.  A survey in April showed that people are valuing food more and wanting to reduce waste.  48% of Britons were throwing away less food in general, with 51% throwing away less after meals (even with no portion size change).  Across four key products – potatoes, break, milk and chicken - it is reported that there has been a 34% reduction in food waste.  30% of people have started saving leftovers, and freezing more food, to make supplies go further (8% of people have even purchased additional freezers!). 

People have developed these new habits and have grown accustomed to making the contents of their cupboards stretch further.  These include freezing, batch cooking and saving leftovers; and nearly a third of UK consumers are cooking more creatively during lockdown.  Ultimately the coronavirus outbreak has prompted many to cut down on food waste.

The UK food chain is changing rapidly and dramatically as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.  People are being more ‘food smart’ with what they buy and how they use it.  Hopefully these stronger food management behaviours, that have emerged during lockdown, will continue and become our ‘new normal’.