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Matvett – information concept for food waste reduction towards consumers

  • Published on June 30, 2016
Matvett aims to reduce unnecessary food waste by collaborating with the food value chain and spreading consumer information. Matvett’s communication platform towards the consumer consists of: • Web-based communication through and social media in collaboration with others. • Communication Materials: Brochures with “Matvett’s 10 tips” to reduce food waste by better planning and storing, “Leftover love” Cookbook. • One-to-one communication to raise awareness and knowledge, with exhibition of the “Food waste table”, quiz and leftover food. Matvett has successfully attracted the attention of the general public, politicians, media and private sector. Since the launch of the communication platform, consumer’s awareness about food waste as a problem and their own role in waste prevention has increased. The platform is operated by Matvett AS, a company, owned by the food sector and financed by the Norwegian government and food industry.
The objective is to reduce food waste by collaborating with different interest groups and by providing consumer information. Matvett is owned by organizations in the food sector; the Food and Drink section of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO Mat og Drikke), the Norwegian Grocery Sector’s Environmental Forum (DMF), the Grocery Producers of Norway (DLF) and the Norwegian Hospitality Association (NHO Reiseliv). The company is financed by the Norwegian government and 32 food industry companies. Ostfold Research is responsible for the mapping and analysis of food waste. Matvett also cooperates with the food research institute Nofima that provides expert advice on food safety, the environment and communication. When researching food waste amounts and sources in Norway, Matvett working with Ostfold Research established that consumers were responsible for the largest share of food waste, 64%. Therefore, more in depth research was made about consumer behavior as well as the amounts and types of food wasted. The research results revealed that young people were responsible for most of the food waste. The study also showed that most of the food was wasted because the best before date had expired. Matvett created the website to provide consumers with motivating information about simple ways to prevent food waste. One of the main focus areas of Matvett has been to reduce food waste caused by an expiration of the “best before date”. There is a significant difference between the “best before date”, which is a guideline and the “last use date”, which should be strictly followed. In order to change this behavior, consumers need to feel safe about using food products where the “best before” date has expired. Therefore, Matvett has right from the start collaborated with the Norwegian national authorities and research institutes institutions providing advices on food safety. Matvett has also collected information from food producers about how long each product remains fit for consumption after the “best before” date. The kickoff event aimed at consumers took place in June 2011 and consisted of a free lunch made from food products where the “best before” date had expired. The event was organized in front of the Parliament building in Oslo, and participators included many politicians as well as Tristram Stuart the internationally famous British campaigner against food waste. The lunch was a great success and attracted many citizens and media representatives. The website was launched in early 2012 to both raise awareness, inspire and inform consumers. The website contains some 100 recipes and gives simple rules of how to take better care of food, covering topics such as meal planning, storage and reusing leftovers. In addition to the website, Matvett has created concepts such as Leftover Thursday and Food Waste Table. The idea of the Leftover Thursday is that leftovers from the beginning of the week would be used for cooking on Thursdays and that all food has a value and still tastes good even if it is not fresh. Cooking recipes utilizing leftover food as ingredients are provided through the website and a Facebook group. Matvett has also organized events such as “The National Leftover Thursday” together with partners, once with The Peace Centre and once with the Consumer Council. The focus has been on raising awareness amongst children and young people, serving expired food, such as yoghurt and showing the Food Waste table. This is an exhibition illustrating the amount of food that is wasted each year by an average Norwegian. The table is presented for example in shopping centers during Leftover Thursdays, festivals, food fares and other events. Success Factors One of the main success factors has been the collaborative approach that Matvett has applied since the beginning. Matvett collaborates with the entire food value chain from industry to retailers and the hospitality sector, which has enabled spreading consumer information through the value chain members. In addition, cooperation has been made with governmental agencies, NGO’s, schools, business sector, food loggers and media. Starting the work by identifying the sources, reasons and types of food waste was also crucial for successful communication concept development. Novelty Food waste was not recognized as a major problem in Norway when Matvett started. Through 5 years systematic research and the collaborative approach with the entire food value chain, politicians, media and companies in general, Matvett has succeeded adding food waste reduction on the Norwegian agenda. Matvett has innovated concepts such as National Leftover Thursday and the Leftover Food Table that can be used by partners. Sustainability Impacts Norwegians throw away over 230,000 tons of food annually that could have been eaten, equal to 46.3 kilos per person. According to the consumer surveys conducted between 2010 and 2015, there is an increase in the percentage of consumers who report having discarded less food and the percentage who are more conscious of it being a problem that they discard food themselves. The percentage of consumers that report buying too large quantities or units of food has decreased. This trend may indicate that consumer-oriented campaigns from the producer and retail sectors, together with efforts to change attitudes and awareness by Matvett, have led to consumers changing their habits. Between April 2015 and 2016, has attracted over 69,000 visits. Around 80% of the visits have been from new users. The average website visits per day is around 200. Matvett’s Facebook group has over 6,000 followers. An online awareness raising campaign about resource efficiency during christmas time in 2015 resulted in a high peak of visitors on and facebook. The campaign was organized together with the department of Children-, Equality and Social Inclusion. Matvett’s successful work has attracted the attention of companies and food bloggers. For example, companies such as Ikea and Siemens have expressed their interest in cooperating with Matvett for running campaign on food waste, for example related to correct food storing. In addition, e.g. food bloggers have shared the leftover food receipts. Since Matvett has only two employees, collaboration with companies and NGOs has been crucial for scaling up the activities and achieving visibility. For example, fridge manufacturers have cooperated by spreading the word about correct storage and NGO’s have presented the Food Waste Table in different events. Matvett has also improved the cost efficiency of its online campaigns. For example, Matvett achieved 13,000 clicks with a budget of EUR 16,000 during its Christmas online campaign on resource efficiency. This campaign showed 38% lower cost per clicks than other similar campaigns. Challenges and potential for further development Extensive work has been conducted on date labelling in the industry, where the date label has been changed from “use by” to “best before” on several kinds of food such as dairy products and whole pieces of meat. However, consumer surveys still show a slight increase over the past year in the proportion of consumers who say they throw away food only because it is past its expiry date. This suggests that work still needs to be done on consumer attitudes and understanding of what date labels on food means. The company continues to actively collaborate with different kinds of actors to keep the topic in public discussions and to raise media attention. Matvett is also working to get the Norwegian Ministry of education to integrate food waste reduction as a part of teaching curricula. Contact person for more information: Anne Marie Schrøder,
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