Label babel: smart solutions to food waste

When was the last time you threw away food? Today? Yesterday? We are all complicit in this crisis. One third of all food produced is wasted (Nestle).  About a third of all the food in the UK is wasted, according to scientists (BBC 2019).  Sustainability has been a hot topic for years, but the figures are still shocking.


Partly it’s because expiry dates can be too cautious and confusing.  A third of the UK’s two million tonnes of annual food waste is due to confusion over labels (WRAP).   Labels use too many different terms, prompting people to throw away usable produce.  Five years ago, firms were encouraged to replace ‘sell by’ with ‘display until’; that’s now become ‘best before’.  But is this enough to help consumers navigate through the label babel on the shelves and really understand how long food is safe to eat?


Enter the smart label.  The market is suddenly bursting with innovative fighters against food waste.  From Toast Beer to The Karma App, it’s now becoming not just on trend, it’s by demand.


As so often, innovation starts small.  Look at recent start-up Mimica’s ingenious biologically-active food labelling system, Touch, which shows you visually if your food is fresh.  It’s small initiatives like these that are really stirring up the market and forcing bigger brands to wake up to the challenge.  Arla, for instance, is reacting by scrapping use-by and best-before dates in favour of the ‘sniff test’ in the UK.


Consumer waste-consciousness is driving producers to smarten up their labelling and clever brands are seizing the opportunity to change the status quo.  Relish knows the future is waste awareness, so we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of this important trend and trying to pre-empt where it will lead next. We’ve put ourselves to the test to minimise food waste in our offices … it’s often tougher than you think.  We’d love to hear what steps you’re taking or what you’ve seen out there that is feeding the trend.