Online shopping is continuing to be adopted by more consumers as technology improves and shopper’s convenience needs increase. A joint report from Nielsen and the Food Marketing Institute revealed that the adoption of online shopping has grown more rapidly than first thought. The 2018 report predicted that in the next five to seven years 70 percent of shoppers were expected to be buying some portion of their groceries online. However, with the growth of online shopping comes an increase in food waste as personal shoppers are tasked with choosing the selected food items on behalf of the consumer.
Statistics show that on average New Zealander’s are throwing away almost $2 billion worth of food every year. A survey from RaboDirect exposed that Millennials were the most wasteful at 15 percent while Baby Boomers wasted on average 8 percent of their groceries. Industry experts are starting to notice a correlation between an increase in food waste and an increase in online shopping.
New Zealand Supermarkets are at least doing their part to combat the fight against food waste whether that be through improving technology, donating excess food to third parties or educating consumers. The fight against food waste doesn’t just end there, the anti-plastic packaging debate could also result in an increase in food waste. What was originally used to help keep produce fresh for longer is now being removed.
A spokesperson from Countdown said that the company is doing what they can to reduce food waste, but the best thing that can be done is to ideally sell everything they buy. “We have really robust systems to forecast inventory needs as accurately as we can. Our policy is to donate any surplus food that we can’t sell through our Countdown Food Rescue programme. We work with The Salvation Army and many other food rescue charities and organisations right across the country and last year donated $6.3 million of food to our charity partners and to farmers. Fundamentally waste isn’t something that we want.”
Supermarkets have also been starting to sell ‘ugly’ produce as another solution to the fight against food waste. Supermarkets such as Countdown sell the Odd Bunch which are bags of funny looking fruit and vegetables for a reduced cost. Overseas supermarket chains such as Tesco and Kroger are also offering consumers less desirable produce for cheaper. A French cereal company has even taken it one step further, selling the ends of cereal to consumers.
THE PERSONAL SHOPPER
The personal shopper is the one tasked with choosing the groceries for an online order. Both Countdown and Foodstuffs state that their personal shoppers are highly trained to shop as if they were shopping in store for themselves. The online shopping platforms are designed to give customers preferred preference options and provide comment sections where customers can state further what they would like.
“Our personal shoppers are highly trained to shop as our customers would if they were in our stores. For every single product a customer orders online, you have the ability to state your own personal preference i.e. whether you like your bananas green or yellow, or if you want firm or ripe avocados. We have thousands of New Zealanders who trust us to shop on their behalf and make shopping a really easy and seamless experience,” said a spokesperson from Countdown
Customer guidelines are however not always adhered to by the personal shopper. Supermarket News notes instances where bread was delivered on the day it went stale and meat was offered the day before the expiry date. Bananas also prove to be difficult when considering the polarising debate of whether they are best when they are green or yellow.
The comments left by customers are not always followed by the personal shopper which can, unfortunately, lead to more food being thrown out.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
There are ways in which supermarkets can further improve their online shopping experience. Whether it be through food being packaged and delivered differently, further education for both online shoppers and consumer’, or by further personalising customer options on the website.
An example of packaging innovation for online grocery orders recently occurred with bananas in Korea. A convenience store was spotted selling its bananas packaged in a container that housed six bananas that ranged in ripeness from very green to ready-to-eat. Offering a range of produce that is at different levels of maturity gives customers ideal options for every day of the week.
Offering consumers more ways in which they can personalise their order is another way to improve online shopping and reduce the number of food thrown away. Providing scales in which users can select their preferred level of ripeness of produce can decrease the number of returns.
Further education for both the personal shopper and customer can also help to perfect the online shopping experience. Ensuring that groceries selected are at their optimal condition and not past or too close to use-by dates will reduce the number of foods that end up in landfill. Consumers can also do their part by not throwing away bruised apples or selecting a wonky shaped zucchini.