When it comes to eliminating food waste, there's a crop of innovative companies who are evaluating the issue with a new lens. Instead of looking at waste as useless trash, these pioneers see the potential to repurpose leftover food scraps into something meaningful that can build healthier communities.
We asked Clarice Turner, Senior Vice President, U.S. Retail of Starbucks, to explain how they are tackling this issue head-on from a large scale enterprise level. You can hear more about the big wins and key learnings of Starbucks, Darden, Feeding America, and others on Tuesday, May 24 during WastED: Tips for Saving Food, Communities, and Money at NRA Show.
Curbing food waste has become an issue bigger than just improving profits—when did it turn into a focus on the community for your operation?
Clarice Turner: Starbucks partners advocated for a solution to donate unsold food and distribute it to people in need. For years, Starbucks has been able to successfully donate pastries, but fresh or perishable food has presented a bigger challenge. To address this issue, Starbucks is investing in research and quality assurance testing to develop a program to safely donate nourishing, ready-to-eat meals so we can help make a positive impact on the 1 in 7 Americans who struggle with hunger.
How can larger corporations humanize their efforts to end food waste so it doesn’t come off as just a profit play?
CT: Our approach with the FoodShare Program was a commitment to put our food surplus to a higher use and an investment that Starbucks is making in the communities that we serve. If you look at our track record, Starbucks Mission has always been to act with courage, challenge the status quo, and find new ways to grow our company and each other.
When you implemented your plans to reduce food waste, how did you approach staff education to get them on board?
CT: We knew to be successful—and if we were going to build a blueprint for other companies to join our effort—we had to tackle food safety issues. During our pilot program, we focused on maintaining the temperature, texture, and flavor of this food so we were confident when it reached a person in need, they could safely enjoy it. As for hurdles, we deployed a team of internal experts from quality assurance, research and development, food and supply chain. From internal shelf-life testing to selecting the hottest time of year in the Arizona for pilot, we were committed to meeting this challenge in a way that could be scaled nationally over time.
How are you thinking long-term about making food waste reduction an inherent part of your operations? What goals do you have for repurposing, donating, and composting?
CT: Let’s start with food donation. Some unsold food, or food waste, is inevitable for all food retailers, even those like Starbucks who manage inventory effectively and efficiently. If there are no leftover food items at the close of business, this demonstrates a missed opportunity to serve the snacks and meals customers seek throughout the day. This new approach will enable our partners to ensure those leftover items are rescued and put to a better use, feeding people in need. Starbucks has set a goal to rescue 100% of food available to donate from all of its U.S. company-operated stores
We’re also focusing on composting. While our policy is that our stores will compost and/or recycle where space and services are available, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for a global business with stores in 66 countries. Starbucks' success with composting and recycling is continually dependent upon a variety of factors, such as the comprehensiveness of commercial services in a given region, aligning with landlords, and finding adequate exterior space for containers
Who inspires you to continue to innovate the ways you use food more thoughtfully and reconsider how you develop and create products?
CT: We always have our fingers on the pulse of our partners snf customers who challenge us to push the status quo and find new ways to be on the cutting edge of innovation in product development and leaders in reducing our environmental impact.