4 Ways to Reduce Food Waste in Japan's F&B Industry

Coca-Cola, Suzuhiro Kamaboko, CoCooking and Aranea share their solutions to food waste in Japan.

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Happy Tuesday Market Shakers! In March, we wrote about the food waste problem in Japan. The post struck a chord with our readers, with many of you showing support for tackling this issue. So, last month we held a webinar to dive deeper into the subject. We gathered four speakers from leading companies and startups in Japan to share their solutions to the food waste problem on Earth Day 2022. Today's article features a recording of the event, plus a bonus summary of the key takeaways.

Earth Day 2022 Webinar: What to do about waste in Japan’s food and beverage industry?

Watch the full recording of the webinar here, including Q&A. Continue reading to see our 4-point executive summary of the content.

Each speaker from our webinar had a different approach to managing food waste. We’ve condensed their fascinating presentations down into 4 summary points that describe the core of their food waste reduction initiatives.

Reduce food waste with #1: Upcycling

Speaker: Alexander Fellner | Co-founder and CEO @ Aranea Ltd.

We’ve written a lot about upcycling recently. When done right, it has the potential to turn waste into value for a business. Our first speaker, Aranea, develops tech that empowers companies to plug upcycling directly into their production lines. Alexander explained how Aranea’s solution unlocks the nutritional potential of byproducts, giving them a second life as a value-added ingredient for new products.

Presentation Summary

  • Aranea’s technology uses a cocktail of fungus to ferment byproducts and unlock their nutritional benefits. The technology is designed to be incorporated into manufacturers’ production processes so companies save waste transportation and disposal costs.

  • One such byproduct is spent coffee grounds, produced in high volume by Japan’s RTD coffee industry and normally used in fertilizer or burned. Using Aranea’s technology, companies can enhance the nutritional value of grounds and repurpose them in cookies, pancake mix, or even a second round of coffee.

  • Alexander highlights that Aranea’s technology brings several benefits to Japan. Aranea’s technology can help Japan, which relies on imports for 60% of its food, do more with its limited resources and increase its food self-sufficiency rate. Aranea’s technology also represents a strong investment in ESG initiatives - reducing food waste also reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from rotting food, and opportunity loss to feed the hungry.

Reduce food waste with #2: Maximizing yield from raw materials

Speaker: Kevin Suzuki | Founding Family and New Business Development @ Suzuhiro Kamaboko

Suzuhiro Kamaboko was founded in 1865. The company produces premium organic kamaboko, a fish cake made from surimi (fish paste) which is moulded into a roll shape and steamed. It’s a popular new year dish in Japan and Suzuhiro’s product is the kamaboko of choice for the emperor. Suzuhiro’s approach to reducing food waste is based on their philosophy: the fish used to make their products are a life source for people. They invest in research and processes to ensure they use as much as possible of each fish that goes into their kamaboko. The leftovers are turned into fertilizer to grow vegetables that they serve in their restaurants in Suzuhiro Kamaboko Village.

Presentation Summary 

  • Kevin explains that Suzuhiro Kamaboko’s corporate philosophy is to appreciate the life of the fish used to make their product, as a life source for consumers. This drives Suzuhiro to take sustainable approaches to their business.

  • Suzuhiro established an R&D centre to research fish protein and how to increase yield from a single fish so that as little waste as possible is produced from every fish caught.

  • Suzuhiro operates a Kamaboko Village which is part of their sustainability initiatives. The Village has several facilities where visitors can learn about and make kamaboko, and enjoy foods made from local ingredients and Suzuhiro’s products. Suzuhiro turns fish bones leftover from production into fertilizer, which is then used to grow fruits and vegetables for the dishes in their village restaurants.

Reduce food waste with #3: Food sharing

Speaker: Taichi Isaku | Co-founder and Chief Product Officer @ CoCooking

CoCooking operates a food rescue app called TABETE which matches food services with soon to be waste products and users who want to buy said food. The app empowers restaurants and consumers to reduce food waste and make gains using just their phones. The app came to the rescue for many of the stores that struggled to sell food during COVID-19. Restaurants save on waste disposal by finding last-minute buyers for their perfectly edible products. Consumers get discount goodie bags of food to feed their families and a feeling that they did a good deed.

Presentation Summary 

  • TABETE currently has 500,000 users across Japan and 2100 participating restaurants and stores that use the app to prevent leftover food from being wasted.

  • Since launching 4 years ago, over 300,000 meals have been rescued on TABETE, equating to 152 tons of food. 

  • Stores, typically bakeries and cafes, can register bags of leftover food on the app. Users can then purchase the food through the app and schedule a time to collect it from the store.

  • The app offers stores several benefits. Namely, stores turn costs into revenue by selling their leftover food rather than paying to dispose of it. Taichi explained that one store reduced its food waste costs by 87% (¥100,000 per month savings) since starting to use TABETE.

  • CoCooking is seeking to grow the number of stores across Japan that use TABETE, empowering more businesses and consumers to reduce food waste. On the technical side, they want to integrate production forecasting features into their app to further enable stores to reduce waste.

Reduce food waste with #4: Demand forecasting

Speaker: Khalil Maaouni | Head of Data and Digital @ Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Ltd.

How do Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Ltd. serve a network of 250,000 outlets and 700,000 vending machines in Japan without waste? Data. Coca-Cola Bottlers use a range of data points, from consumer purchase habits to changing weather patterns, to forecast demand and deliver products just in time. This adds up to extended shelf life and reduced spoilage.

Presentation Summary 

  • Khalil explains that Coca-Cola uses baseline modelling to forecast demand and constraints in the market. This requires paying attention to diverse signals such as consumer habits, weather patterns, new product launches, and all kinds of factors that could influence consumer demand. 

  • By paying attention to the data, Coca-Cola is able to deliver 500 million cases of products just in time, resulting in extended shelf life, less spoilage and less waste.

  • Coca-Cola employs technology to track data at all levels of production, such as IoT implemented in factories and during product transportation. Rich data helps them get granular, even down to the level of how much water they use in production and should then replenish.

  • Khalil emphasised that players should align, engaging consumers and even competitors, to solve the problem of food waste as an industry.

That’s all folks

We hope you enjoyed this special Earth Day 2022 recap post. Let us know which reduction method you found most appealing in the comments below!

Next week we’ll be taking a short break from publishing. We’ll be back on May 31st to begin an exciting new cycle. We can’t wait to get started so stay tuned - for tuna.

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