Global demand for food has never been higher, as populations skyrocket and developing areas of the world strive to feed their citizens. But in the United States, more than one-third of the food produced is never eaten and a new online survey of U.S. grocery shoppers’ attitudes conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Sealed Air Corporation shows that food waste in the U.S. is near the top of the list of consumers’ environmental concerns and they are willing to change behaviors if better informed on the issue. The April 2014 study interviewed over 1,000 U.S. adults (aged 18+) who do at least 25% of their household’s grocery shopping (“American grocery shoppers”).
Sealed Air commissioned the report to evaluate Americans’ food habits, sustainability practices, and overall awareness of food waste issues. The study’s key findings show that while there is growing concern and awareness of how much food is wasted in the United States, most American grocery shoppers still don’t consider their own households to be wasteful or a part of the problem.
“The good news is that more and more people are becoming aware of the staggering statistics surrounding food waste and its devastating environmental, economic and social impact on the world,” said Ron Cotterman, Vice President of sustainability at Sealed Air.
According to the survey, American grocery shoppers report being more concerned about food waste in the U.S. (63% concerned or very concerned) than other issues such as air pollution (59%), water shortages (57%), climate change (53%) and genetically modified foods (52%). However, most American grocery shoppers are not concerned about food waste in their own household. 63% say food waste in the U.S. is a concern, yet only 34% say food waste in their home is a concern.
While food packaging plays a key role in preventing waste, the Sealed Air study also found that American grocery shoppers:
- associate food packaging more with safety than waste;
- see discarded packaging as worse for the environment than food waste and food that has minimal or no packaging being more environmentally friendly; and
- will often behave contrary to their beliefs (in the last six months, 40 percent have removed original packaging on store bought foods and repackaged it).
“Grocery shoppers have troubling misperceptions about food packaging, and mistakenly view it as a contributor to food waste rather than correctly acknowledging its role as food preserver,” adds Cotterman. “We believe that by better understanding where and why food is wasted we can generate increased awareness and identify opportunities to help change consumer behavior and prevent food waste.”