Food waste is a global problem resulting in major environmental impact. Around 150-300 kg food per capita is wasted or lost from the supply chain. In discussions on sustainability the focus is often purely on reducing or changing the package materials. But the consequences on the food quality and food waste in the complete food supply chain are not considered. While the consequences of food waste are enormous.
Good packaging design and innovations can optimise food quality, therefore the shelf life can be prolonged and simulations in the supply chain show strong reductions in food waste.
Besides the protection function, the communication function of the package can also be used to reduce food waste. Intelligent packaging can be used to reduce food waste when used in supply chain management based on Quality Controlled Logistics (QCL). Intelligent packaging senses compounds in the package that correlate with the critical quality attribute of a food product. The information of the sensors on the quality of each individual packaged food item can be used for decision support for QCL.
It is demonstrated how monitoring food quality in combination with mathematical modelling enables the use of dynamic expiration dates (DED) on food packages. The use of DED allows for more sophisticated issuing policies that the current often applied First In First Out (FIFO) issuing policy. The effect of these policies on reducing food waste is demonstrated by scenario simulations of using the information of intelligent packaging in supply chain management. These simulations show that QCL by using the information on the quality of products that is provided by intelligent packaging can reduce food waste by more than 50% compared to FIFO or other issuing policies. The results from consumers studies showed that dynamic pricing based on the DED from the electronic sensor signal can strongly influence consumer behaviour and help to reduce waste at the retailer by optimizing supply chain management.
This research explains and quantifies the potential of intelligent packaging to reduce food waste in multiple ways in the food chain.
Dr. ir. Jenneke Heising, Assistant Professor, Food Quality & Design, Wageningen University