Statistics on food waste in grocery stores

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report highlights

  • Grocery stores are responsible 10% Food waste in the US.
  • Every year US supermarkets waste about 43 billion pounds of food.
  • As much as 40% Food waste from grocery stores is still edible.
  • 44 states have no laws encouraging food donations.
  • Food waste accounts for approx 30% garbage from grocery stores.
  • Imperfections, mishandling and excess result in approx 2%-5% all food waste.
  • Up to a fifth of vegetables and fruits do not meet cosmetic standards
  • causing food waste 8th% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world, more than any other country except the US and China.
  • The total value of food losses in the US is $218 billion.
  • People in the US throw away twice as much Eat like people in other countries.

Food waste statistics

General food waste statistics for grocery stores

These general stats apply to foods that grocery stores waste or that grocery store customers end up not using.

  • Food waste would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases if it were a country.
  • Grocery stores lose up to $18.2 billion a year to food waste.
  • The difficulty of changing consumer habits has made it difficult for grocery stores to reduce food waste.
  • Kroger aims to eliminate food waste through donation and other methods by 2025.
  • Overstocking shelves to make products look good is a major cause of food waste.
  • Food production uses about a quarter of all the freshwater the US uses.
  • Containers and other food packaging are responsible for about 23% of all landfill waste.
  • Over 80% of Americans throw away good food because of confusing use-by date labels.
  • Americans waste nearly 40 million tons of food every year.
  • On average, 219 pounds of food per person is wasted in a year.
  • Impulse buying of food and overestimating the amount to buy contribute to food waste.
  • Despite all the food waste, up to 50 million Americans are food insecure.
  • In one year, hunger can kill about 9 million people, more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
  • Wasted food could fill the hungry more than four times over.
  • Food accounts for about 22% of all municipal solid waste.
  • Composting would significantly reduce the amount of food going to landfill.
  • The production of food waste causes as many greenhouse gas emissions as 37 million cars.
  • An average family of four throws away about $1,600 worth of products in a year.
  • Only about 3% of people associate throwing food with a social stigma.
  • The USDA and FDA aim to reduce food waste by 50% from 2010 levels by 2030.
  • Commercial food waste accounts for 61% of all food waste, or approximately 66 billion pounds.
  • Almost half of all food is wasted due to quality and safety concerns.
  • At 32.6%, products make up almost a third of all food waste.
  • Dairy products and eggs account for another 29.3% of all food waste.
  • Wasting one kilogram of beef also results in 50,000 liters of wasted water.
  • By state, Vermont wastes the most food.
  • Grocery stores throw away about 122.7 million pounds of food every day.
  • About a fifth of meat from grocery stores is wasted.
  • About 19,000 new foods that are not popular become food waste.
  • Large, inflexible food packaging can contribute to a significant amount of waste.
  • Increased portion sizes also create a lot of waste, especially when people can’t finish everything they buy.
  • The production of wasted food consumes natural resources such as energy, water and physical labour.
  • Up to 9.5% of seafood is lost at the retail and distribution levels.

Statistics on food waste in the supply chain

A significant portion of food waste in grocery stores comes from the supply chain, from farmer to fork.

Consider how farms and manufacturing processes can lead to so much grocery store waste.

  • Between 21 and 33% of the water used in agriculture is used for agricultural products, which are wasted.
  • On average, farmers can leave about 66,500 acres (4% of the crop) unharvested.
  • The area used to grow wasted food accounts for up to 28% of all arable land.
  • Food manufacturing processes can result in around 4% of food waste.
  • Buyer cancellations account for up to 5% of food waste.
  • Up to 40% of harvests never make it onto anyone’s table.
  • Consumer demand, market price, and product quality can all lead to food waste at the farming stage.
  • New product development is a significant source of food waste for manufacturers.
  • Food allergies can also lead to excess waste due to cross-contamination issues.
  • The value of grocery store food waste is twice the value of grocery sale profits.
  • Refining product management and improving product distribution could save about $14 billion.
  • Another $2 billion could be saved by optimizing harvesting.
  • About 61% of all food waste occurs in households after people have made grocery purchases.
  • Best before dates are some of the most confusing, with consumers believing that the date is when the food goes bad, even if it lasts much longer.
  • Farmers reuse about 14.3% of food waste to feed their livestock.

Statistics on cosmetic issues

Whether it’s grocery stores or shoppers, cosmetic issues can create a ton of food waste, but some businesses are fighting back.

Businesses have helped recover cosmetically damaged products for either direct sale to consumers or as donations to food banks.

  • 10 million pounds of food wasted each year is wasted due to cosmetic defects.
  • Full Harvest and similar companies sell imperfect produce directly and have saved at least £15million in food.
  • Much of this waste is due to building codes from the USDA or certain grocery stores.
  • Up to 20% of a farm’s products do not meet grocery store or USDA requirements.
  • Companies like Imperfect Produce sell direct to people, including those with grocery stamps, for less than what grocery stores charge.
  • Psychologists claim that there is a connection between avoiding ugly products and one’s self-esteem.
  • Reducing cosmetic standards is one of the most effective ways to reduce food waste.

Food waste reduction statistics

Reducing food waste is an excellent step that grocery stores and individuals can take to protect the environment.

Grocery stores and consumers can take steps to reduce the amount of food wasted.

  • Up to 88% of people want to reduce food waste.
  • Only about 10% of food waste is donated, mostly due to donation barriers.
  • Instability is a major concern for grocery stores considering a donation.
  • Many grocery stores (Walmart, Kroger, Target, and others) are committing to reducing or even eliminating food waste over the next few years.
  • Trader Joe’s, Costco and Publix are some grocery stores without transparent food waste reduction policies.
  • Seven of the top 10 grocery stores have not yet started working towards zero waste production.
  • Kroger relies on automated ordering systems to reduce the amount of product the store orders to avoid food waste.
  • Other stores can use automation and inventory management to reduce waste.
  • Gredients was a zero-waste grocery store that opened in Austin in 2012 but had to close due to high waste reduction ambitions.
  • Stop & Shop saved over $100 million by reducing grocery inventory.
  • Feeding America reduced food waste by 4.7 billion pounds in one year.
  • Other innovations could save far more food waste in a year.
  • About 19.5% of food waste is donated to those in need.
  • In 2017, only about 6% of food waste did not end up in a landfill or incinerator.
  • Meeting the USDA and FDA targets for 2030 would save about 4 trillion gallons of water.
  • Achieving these targets would also reduce greenhouse gases by 75 million tons.
  • Businesses can save up to $7 for every $1 they spend reducing food waste.
  • Public-private partnerships are essential for grocery stores to continue their efforts to reduce food waste.
  • Consumers can help by not buying as much groceries so stores know they don’t have to order as much.
  • Putting a dollar value on discarded food can help you see the impact of that waste.
  • If you rely more on your gut and your sense of smell than the expiration date, you could save a lot on groceries.

Statistics of the Food Waste Act

One of the ways we can tackle food waste in grocery stores and throughout the supply chain is through legislation.

Consider some existing and proposed laws for the US or specific states.

  • The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects businesses from liability when they donate food that happens to be bad.
  • After Vermont banned food waste from going to landfill, nationwide food donations increased by 40%.
  • While the Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 has yet to be passed, it would standardize labeling requirements to make them less confusing for consumers.
  • California has a law that requires stores to divert 75% of groceries from landfills by 2025.


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