AU packaging

Research commissioned by the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) has found Australian families hate wasting fresh produce because it’s akin to ‘throwing away money’.

The in-home study surveyed 38 households across different life stages, incomes and ethnicities in an effort to understand the relationship between fresh produce packaging, food waste and recycling in the home.

Research participants estimated they throw away 5-10 per cent of their fresh produce purchases weekly.

Rabobank’s 2019 food waste report found that household waste accounted for 34 per cent of food waste nationally, with consumers spending up to A$10.1bn on food that ended up in landfill.

Chief executive of AFPA, Michael Rogers, said the study demonstrated consumers who live in outer suburbs and have young families are looking for ways to reduce the financial burden of food waste in their households.

The research identified three key themes of meal planning, convenience formats, and storage and use of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“A really key finding of this research is that the greater the level of meal planning undertaken by a household, the greater their reduction in food waste,” said Rogers.

“This can save Australian families money every week and farmers and retailers can support this through seasonal meal ideas and meal plans which use all of the weekly fruit and vegetables purchased.”

This consumer research was undertaken as in-home interviews, which provided an opportunity to observe consumers fridges, pantries, kitchens and bins.

The findings indicate that despite most consumers expressing a desire to reduce packaging, packaged produce was observed in the majority of fridges and kitchens.

“We’re seeing Australian families utilise packaged product for the benefit of portion control and keeping product fresher for longer. This ensures that consumers have the maximum amount of time available to use fresh produce which is overwhelmingly positive,” added Rogers.

“Keeping product as fresh as possible is critical in both reducing food waste and ensuring Australian’s are able to access quality, fresh and nutritious fresh produce.”

Improving fresh produce packaging requires collaboration

In a recent roundtable discussion between AFPA members and major Australian retailers including Coles, Woolworths, ALDI, and Harris Farm markets, discussions centred around the use of packaging on fresh produce.

“The roundtables are particularly useful forums for each party to outline their objectives in meeting packaging reduction targets. This type of conversation allows two key sections of the supply chain to constructively engage on how to meet these targets, without increasing food waste or removing fruit and vegetable offerings from Australian households” said Rogers.

In the aforementioned study, participants said they felt only ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ about throwing out packaging.

“Ultimately, the goal for the fresh produce supply chain should be to work with Australian families to reduce the financial and environmental burden of food waste, while increasing access to fresh fruit and vegetables for the overall health of Australians,' he added.

Additional roundtables are scheduled for 2020, in an effort to drive industry innovation and to minimise packaging and food waste.