Even as governments grapple with the challenges of ensuring long-term food security for millions in the region, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) remains one of the top contributors to the global food waste problem. Nestle Singapore’s recent move to upcycle food byproducts from its factories showcases how corporations can address this crucial issue, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Most of the food loss emanates from highly industrialized and urbanized countries, namely Japan, China and South Korea, where industrial food production and processing generates tons of byproducts, most of which is dumped or incinerated. Household food waste is also a major contributor, indicating the lack of awareness about the true cost of food, and poor inventory management in homes.
Bobby Verghese, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData explains, “Much of this wastage is attributed to the dearth of advanced food packaging, storage, and processing technologies The crux of the issue is the diversion of surplus edibles, processing waste, or past-expiry/unsold/ugly food to landfills. A large portion of this waste can be recovered for feeding the impoverished and undernourished masses. Many startups such as UglyFood and Crust Group, based in Singapore, Garda Pangan (Indonesia), and GrubCycle (Malaysia) are leveraging inventive upcycling strategies to tackle the issue.”
The upcycling trend is gathering momentum as big businesses step into this space. For instance, in August 2021, Nestlé pledged to step up focus on ‘waste stream valorisation’ or upcycling at its research and development (R&D) center in Singapore. Nestlé tasked researchers at the Singapore R&D center with repurposing barley grain leftovers from the production of its iconic malt beverage Milo. The company also aims to valorize food waste from other product categories including plant-based meat and dairy alternatives and ice cream.
Mr. Verghese adds: “Upcycled food and beverages offer a win-win scenario for the farmers, manufacturers as it squeezes out maximum value from ‘ugly’ produce that would otherwise be thrown away as it is deemed to be too unattractive to sell. Manufacturers can leverage upcycling strategies to achieve their carbon footprint goals, and gain more goodwill, especially at a time when conscious/responsible consumerism is on the rise.”
Upcycled food brands can target 38% of consumers in the APAC who find sustainably/ethically sourced ingredients very appealing, with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia leading the trend, as per GlobalData’s Q2 2021 consumer survey*.
Mr. Verghese concludes: “Upcycled food can initially face resistance from consumers as it is perceived as lower quality edibles reclaimed from food waste. Hence, manufacturers need to refrain from underpricing such value-added foods to avoid stamping it with a ‘cheap’ tag. Government and corporate campaigns can play a pivotal role in effecting major behavioral changes among the consumers towards repurposing food waste.”
*GlobalData Q2 2021 Consumer Survey – Asia-Pacific (June 2021) with 6,519 respondents