Thought Bubble: Food waste in Asia Pacific

June 15, 2017
5 min read

Brands across the world are coming together to tackle the global phenomenon of food waste, as discussed in Mintel’s 2017 Global Food and Drink Trend ‘Waste Not’. As more retailers, restaurants and philanthropic organisations address the sheer amount of food and drink that is wasted, consumer behaviours are also gradually changing.

Here, Mintel’s expert analysts shine a spotlight on the issue of food waste in China, Australia and Singapore, to assess the implications for companies and brands.

CHINA Joyce Lam

Joyce Lam, Trends Analyst, APAC

Traditional dining etiquette in China encourages hosts to order lots of food to show their guests hospitality, as well as to earn “face”. Consequently, this has led to high volumes of food waste; a 2016 study from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research estimates that the country’s foodservice industry is wasting about 17-18 million tons of food every year, enough to feed 30-50 million people.

This behaviour has led to growing concerns from the Chinese government and international organisations. In 2013, the government launched a country-wide “Clean Your Plate” campaign to encourage consumers not to over order at restaurants and, if they do, to take it with them in takeaway bags. Such campaigns relate back to Mintel Trend ‘Hungry Planet’, and have the potential to tackle food scarcity in a country that is dealing with an ever growing population, which puts an even greater strain on resources.

In China, where the idea of personal responsibility is less developed than in Western markets, governmental efforts seem to show results; people are starting to establish a more conscious attitude, especially affluent consumers who are putting pressure on brands to act more ethically. Research from Mintel’s upcoming Marketing to Mintropolitans China 2017 report shows that almost half of respondents say that an ethical brand should make efforts to reduce waste.

Brands and companies that proactively promote and perform sustainability will, therefore, win the appreciation and loyalty of consumers. One restaurant has introduced a “sharing fridge” offering leftovers for people in need; while several other restaurants have gathered their unused ingredients to create pizzas for charity. Other ideas include serving dishes in different sizes or even penalising consumers for wasteful behaviour.


Davina Patel, Global Food and Drink Trends Analyst

Australians are becoming increasingly aware of the tremendous amount of food that is being wasted, and they are taking steps towards doing their part for the betterment of the world’s environment.

Recently, Fresh Produce Alliance became the first company in Australia to launch a baby food range, Born Pure, which is made using high-pressure processing. The Born Pure range is unique as it aims to tap into consumers’ need for healthy, tasty and nutritionally sound foods. In addition, it aims to support Australian farmers, by making use of all of their harvest, and thus reduce the amount of unmarketable fruit and vegetables that do not meet fresh market specifications.

Innovative brands like Born Pure that use lower grade produce, but still promise a fresh and nutritious end product, go some way to help reduce the amount of food wastage. Some retailers have also started to make efforts to address this in recent years. For instance, Woolworths announced that they would eliminate the food waste they send to landfill by 2020, and also set up a partnership with Australian food rescue organisation, OZ Harvest. The partnership works to collect and distribute edible food to people in need across Australia.

Looking ahead, brands that offer inventive solutions to food wastage issues are likely to entice consumers who are vested in doing their bit for sustainability.


Delon Wang, Manager of Trends, APAC

Food wastage is an issue that has been on the minds of consumers, brands and government organisations alike. According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA), while food waste accounts for an estimated 10% of the total waste generated in Singapore, only 13% of the food waste is recycled. What’s more, the amount of food waste has reportedly increased by almost 50% in the last decade. With Singapore’s population and economic activity on an upward trend, the amount of food waste generated in the country is expected to increase.

We’ve seen a number of inspiring platforms launched to tackle the issue. Last year, Singapore saw the launch of 11th Hour, a mobile app that aims to prevent food wastage by listing last-minute food deals within close geographical proximity. Earlier this year, the NEA launched the two-year “Love Your Food @ Schools Project”. As part of this programme, 10 primary and secondary schools were fitted with food waste digesters that turn discarded food into compost. This project aims to encourage youth to cherish food and take action to reduce the amount of food being thrown away.

Initiatives like these present an opportunity for brands and companies to reduce their environmental impact while supporting the local community. Organisations should always be on the lookout for new ways to participate in community support projects. These social contributions can create a positive view of the brand from a consumer standpoint, which may, in turn, translate to greater brand loyalty.

Joyce Lam is Trends Analyst for Asia-Pacific, based in Mintel’s Shanghai office.

Davina Patel is a Global Food & Drink Trends Analyst at Mintel. She specialises in delivering food and drink insights on the latest product innovation and market and consumer trends, mainly for the South Asia region.

Delon Wang is Trends Manager, Asia Pacific at Mintel. He oversees Trends content and Trends client servicing for the region.

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