Research reveals Brits' food waste habits - but what do they waste most?

Research showed that bread (40%), vegetables (40%), fruit (36%) and milk (19%) were top foods being wasted.
Research showed that bread (40%), vegetables (40%), fruit (36%) and milk (19%) were top foods being wasted.

Brits needs to change their habits if they are to deliver on their ambition to drastically reduce food waste, new research has revealed.

A nationwide survey showed that 86% want to make changes but ingrained behaviours are hard to shift, with the same number claiming that their current shopping habits will continue into next year.

The report - commissioned by Arla Cravendale - found a clear driver of their waste was food that had turned bad before the participants had had a chance to use it, with a third of respondents admitting to over-purchasing these items.

Despite their desires to get creative in the kitchen, best of intentions are not matched by behaviour.

Research showed that bread (40%), vegetables (40%), fruit (36%) and milk (19%) were top foods being wasted.

Globally, 43 million people cannot afford a quality meal every other day, with 70 percent of food waste in Europe happens at the combined household, food service, and food retail level.

And research from the UN Food Programme for this week's World Food Day, found reducing 25 percent of global food waste could eliminate hunger and starvation.

"Although we want to waste less food, we also want to continue with our existing shopping patterns and cooking behaviours – which sadly are currently quite wasteful," said behaviour expert Corinne Sweet.

"If we do not change some of our habits, we will inevitably end up throwing away stuff and wasting our money, having been tempted by special offers and impulse purchases.

"If we want to waste less this year and next, we will all have to learn to plan ahead, make savvy decisions, like buying foods that will last longer so that we are still able to try out that new dish or have peace of mind that we have things in the fridge, should we not be able to get to the shops.”

Purchasing products with a longer shelf life is a key to reducing waste, while too many consumers are still seduced by in-store promotions and multi buys.

Busy lifestyles and impulsive buying have not only resulted in over a third (34%) of Brits throwing away food they have bought this way, it has also led to forgetting to use up leftovers, with a third (33%) admitting to this.

Simple changes in behaviour, such as planning or preparing food in advance, using up leftovers for lunch or alerting others in the household to leftovers up for grabs can all help to reduce wastage.

Five households reflecting British society joined a unique two-week experiment which saw them document their shopping choices, then over the following fortnight track their food waste, complete with ‘fridge cam’ footage and photos to form a diary.

This was then evaluated to give the families recommendations and tips to keep in mind when in the shops, which directly resulted in a noticeable reduction in their food waste.

“In addition to our own research, sustainability charity, WRAP found that British households collectively pour 490 million pints of milk away each year, and over half of that is discarded because it has not been used in time," said Arla Cravendale's Emma Stanbury.

"This illustrates a huge opportunity for shoppers to significantly reduce their waste and in turn, their carbon emissions from food waste, across their shopping.

"Simply being more aware and making smart choices in the aisles, while also looking for products that last longer can make all the difference.

"Our experiment and consumer research, alongside Corinne’s invaluable insight has shown that together, by making simple swaps and more informed choices, we can all drive change for the better.”