Posted: 27/09/2013

Why ‘every crumb counts’ in war on food waste

With the issue of food waste rising up the agenda, producers have been urged to learn from British Cycling’s Dave Brailsford and remember that small improvements can together make a big difference to the bottom line.

The sports team’s performance director has been credited with raising Britain’s cycling medal tally through “the aggregation of marginal gains”: breaking down every element that goes into a great cycling performance and looking for 1% improvements in each area.

According  to Steve Osborn (pictured), business and innovation manager ofLeatherhead Food Research, the same philosophy can be applied to food and drink manufacturing processes.

When it comes to reducing waste, “every crumb counts,” he told a seminar for food company technical managers in Cornwall this week, organised by the business support team at Cornwall Council’s public health and protection department.

Academics have suggested that if health and nutrition were the big challenges of the last decade, waste and sustainability will dominate the next 10 years as resources become scarcer.

Osborn urged food companies to analyse every step of their production process to either retrieve and re-use waste ingredients or to stop waste before it happens.

“On Day One of new product development, ask the question, ‘What is the waste going to be, and what are we going to do with it?’” he said.

A former Nestlé technical manager, Osborn said the practice in the sugar confectionery industry was to “melt it down and start again” wherever possible, but it was critical to spot and capture food waste while it still had a value. “It’s important to do something with waste before it reaches the point of no return. All the way through the process, you are adding cost to that waste but its value is decreasing.”

He also suggested networking with managers from both food and non-food businesses to get suggestions on how ‘waste’ product could be given some commercial value, for example, by selling under-sized or damaged biscuits to restaurants for use in crumb toppings. “You can’t imagine what other people might need, so be open and chat about what waste you are producing. Collaborate to ‘share your waste’.”

Osborn was speaking at the first Technical Managers Advisory Seminar organised by environmental health officers Justine Wadge and Rosea Reynolds of Cornwall Council in partnership with Enterprise Europe Network South West.

Wadge and Reynolds are currently working with the Guild of Fine Food on plans to develop a code of practice for British charcuterie makers and retailers.

Delegates were able to join in workshops and discussion groups to talk about export development and the technical support available from the Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Network and the Manufacturing Advisory Service, as well as to discuss their own food waste management issues.


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