Setting aside just one day a week to make a meal using solely ingredients already present in the kitchen could slash household food waste by a third, a new study has found - indicating that encouraging small behavioural changes can make significant inroads into shrinking the world's food waste mountain.
Comissioned by Hellmann's, the new research analysed the primary drivers of household food waste before testing strategies to slash that waste. It found that the primary reasons consumers dispose of food at home include forgetting what food is in the fridge or freezer, and being unsure what to do with the mix of ingredients that are left available.
Addressing these insights, the study - which worked with nearly 1,000 families in Canada, one of the world's worst offenders for food waste - asked participants to commit to one 'Use-Up Day' a week, where they would create at least one meal with food they already had in their home.
It supported participants by introducing them to a '3+1 Approach', devised by Hellmann's, which advises household cooks to bring together ingredients from three categories - a base (e.g., bread, rice, pasta), a vegetable or fruit, and an optional protein - plus a 'magic touch' in the form of spices or sauce. Recipe ideas based on this approach were also provided, outlining ides for using up commonly wasted ingredients such as bread, tomatoes, apples, and potatoes.
Researchers then monitored the impact these interventions had on the levels of food waste generated by different households. It discovered that participants reduced their food waste by an average of a third, with three-quarters saying they found achieving the reduction 'easy' thanks to the recipe ideas and advice.
Furthermore, 7 in 10 participants reported feeling more resourceful in the kitchen and 6 in 10 feeling more confident after following the study's recommendations. 8 in 10 were continuing to put them into practice to create what researchers termed a 'use-up meal' at least once per week two months later.
If all households with children across Canada adopted this approach, researchers estimated that the amount of food waste saved would reach 250 million kg.
The study was conducted on behalf of Hellmann's by behavioural scientists at market research firm BEworks. BEworks CEO Kelly Peters said the results demonstrated that "reducing household food waste does not require complex physical interventions like specially organised fridges or the adoption of new, time-consuming habits".
"Instead, we designed solutions based on the fundamentals of the human experience and the science of behaviour change- which are what made this project so successful," she argued.
Following the study's success, Hellmann's announced plans to develop digital resources drawing on its findings which it will rollout across Canada later in the year, and globally thereafter. The programme will form part of the US brand's 'Make Taste, Not Waste' initiative, which aims to drive progress towards parent company Unilever's wider food waste goals of halving food waste in the consumer goods giant's direct global operations by 2025.
"By giving people the tools and motivation to be more resourceful with the food they already have in their homes, we have shown them how to reduce the amount they throw away each week," explained Christina Bauer-Plank, global brand vice president at Hellmann's.
"Now we want to take this further, helping more people access this program through a digital platform we are developing, helping people to make taste, not waste in their homes."