Food and beverage preservation is top-of-mind from production to consumption. The growing interest in reducing food waste makes it an even greater priority, especially in the bakery category
Bonus conversation: Listen to Emma Cahill, Kerry Global Marketing Director for Food Protection and Preservation
New food protection and preservation solutions and processes are bringing improved options to brands and consumers as interest in the space continues to grow.
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‘Preservation was born out of the need for food safety, but it’s also driven by convenience—so that people don't have to buy and prepare fresh food every day’, says Emma Cahill, Global Marketing Director for Food Protection & Preservation. ‘For consumers, there’s the desire for freshness and longevity. For brands, there’s the need to increase efficiencies and reduce losses of food and profit.’
Underlying these factors is a mutual interest in enhanced sustainability, including keeping more food on tables and out of waste and compost, such as through better production processes and extended shelf-life solutions.
To illustrate new opportunities for brands rethinking their protection and preservation strategies, we explore changing consumer sentiments and recent innovations in bakery preservation.
The need to reduce food waste
‘On average around the world, about a third of the food that we produce goes to waste’, says Cahill. ‘And that hasn't changed over a number of years.’
This number remains fairly consistent across both emerging and developed markets. However, in developed markets food is generally wasted more often by consumers than by manufacturers, whereas in emerging markets it’s the manufacturers that contribute the most waste. This split suggests the need to continue applying solutions that solve challenges during production and also help extend shelf life.
The benefits to reducing food waste are many: Brands sell more of their products—owing to improved output and longer shelf-life windows. Consumers feel that they are getting good value and are helping improve sustainability. And, with more food available, the challenge of providing nutrition for all is more attainable.
Decreasing bakery waste is key
‘Globally, the bakery category has the greatest volume of food waste, in terms of finished processed goods’, says Cahill. ‘Being able to extend bakery shelf life could really impact and reduce waste figures’.
Stale bread, bread rolls and cookies are said to account for a majority of bakery waste. One recent study from Sweden suggests that 80,000 tonnes of bread are wasted per year in the country, or about 8 kg per person. Other research suggests that in the U.S., 25% of bread goes to waste in the consumer’s home due to short shelf life.
In addition, in bakeries and plants where processes aren’t optimised, a large percentage of output may never even make it to consumers.
Although some spent bread products are used as animal feed or otherwise put back into the food system, much of it winds up in landfills. This nullifies the resources that went into creating each loaf—from growing and processing grains to baking the finished product—and creates a burden on the environment.
Consumer opinions on product preservation
Increasingly, consumers want to play an active role in sustainability—such as by consuming all of the food they purchase—and they are interested to see how the brands they support prioritise waste reduction and environmental protection. Research from FMCG Gurus found that 67% of global consumers are actively trying to reduce food waste as a result of the pandemic.
Some consumers prioritise clean label preservation, which is reflected in the high number of recent product launches with no additives or preservatives. However, when we look at consumer behavior, very few consumers are fully committed to that premium, ‘no additives or preservatives’ space across applications, making room for both traditional and clean label preservation.
Still, the desire for products that taste good and deliver the expected texture is universal, reinforcing the need for preservation and protection solutions that help maintain freshness and flavour throughout a product’s life.
Optimising bakery and bread production and shelf life
One reason bread and bakery products contribute so much waste is their naturally short shelf life—the low cost, too, makes it easy to discard some products after just one day due to freshness concerns. The addition of traditional food protection and preservation options could be a solution, due to their ability to extend palatability.
‘In 2021 alone, Kerry products were used to extend the shelf life of 34.5 billion loaves of bread across clean label and conventional preservation methods’, says Cahill. ‘The impact of an increase in shelf life of a few days or a percentage may seem hard to quantify when a producer is looking at the initial investment in reformulation. But by adding just a day or two, you’re significantly increasing the chance that the food will be able to feed people, and stretching the reach of your supply chain to a new market. You’re also increasing the likelihood that products will leave the supermarket shelf and decreasing the number of costly returns’.
But products can also be rejected much earlier in the supply chain, suggesting a focus on production processes is also essential for reducing food waste. For example, bakery dough that sticks to a mixing bowl or to a divider would count as food loss. Also categorized as waste are misshapen products that can’t be packaged for sale.
Here, a combination of process changes and recipe updates can help. For example, one manufacturer of baked crackers was recently able to make process updates and reformulate its recipe to include a new enzyme solution, effectively cutting its food waste from 30% of each batch to just 10%.
Being able to make changes at scale for industrial production can especially help resources go further, something that is important in places with food scarcity. As the definition of sustainability continues to change, improving conditions for people as well as the planet—such as through a greater availability of sustainable nutrition—is a growing priority.
To learn more about our conventional and clean label preservation solutions, and to see how we’ve helped brands reduce food waste and improve food safety, quality and appeal, visit our Food Protection and Preservation ingredients page or contact us.