Turning Waste into Worth: How HelloFresh Works with Partners to Repurpose Food Waste
Food waste accounts for half of total greenhouse gas emissions from food systems globally. At HelloFresh, we strive to reduce waste on all levels of our supply chain as we recognize the positive effect that a more sustainable chain has on our business, customers, and the environment. Not only do we help our customers reduce food waste by sending them pre-portioned ingredients, but we have also committed to reducing food waste from our meal kit production facilities by 52% per euro of revenue by the end of 2025 in relation to a 2019 baseline.
Compared to a meal made with supermarket ingredients, a HelloFresh meal has 25% lower carbon emissions over the whole life cycle. Our ongoing commitment to cutting food waste comes to life in multiple aspects of our business model. By using advanced algorithms to predict demand, measuring ingredients for the exact recipe amount, and setting up food redistribution programs, the volume of food waste across our value chain is kept to a minimum. Nonetheless, we continue to explore innovations that have the potential to further reduce our environmental impact and waste.
Filling the Gap by Repurposing Food Waste
While many people associate food waste with rotten, inedible leftovers, in reality, that is not always the case. A significant portion of waste is edible food that cannot be redistributed because it may be close to the expiration date or is simply rejected by food banks due to logistical constraints, for example. These ingredients can be given new life through food repurposing technology and supply chain innovations.
Repurposing food waste refers to the practice of converting food items into valuable resources, preventing them from ending up in waste management processes that are less sustainable because they either emit harmful gases to the environment – as occurs in incineration and landfill disposal – or simply do not generate the same direct value as with anaerobic digestion, for example. While food redistribution is a preferred practice for its direct positive impact on both communities and the environment, repurposing should not be overlooked. It provides a means of utilizing food waste that may not be suitable for redistribution, filling a gap in waste management that many companies struggle with. For example, suitable waste for repurposing could be food scraps resulting from fresh produce, dairy products, and bread, as well as other ingredients that are too close to their expiration dates or have minor quality issues.
Our commitment to responsibly handling the different types of waste from our supply chain aligns with the principles of the waste management hierarchy. This hierarchy prioritizes more eco-friendly practices – particularly within the scope of waste prevention – and takes on a life-cycle approach to evaluate the impact of certain resources on the environment. In line with this approach, we prioritize methods of waste prevention such as redistribution and repurposing instead of recycling, recovery, or disposal (see image below).
The waste management hierarchy pyramid
To fulfill our objective of minimizing food waste, we have partnered up with like-minded suppliers to transform leftovers from our operations into animal feed or pet food. We are proud to introduce two initiatives that exemplify our commitment to repurposing food waste effectively:
The Circular Chicken Project
In late 2021, our HelloFresh team in the Netherlands partnered with chicken supplier Oranjehoen to repurpose leftover food for chicken feed. Through a state-of-the-art processing machine, suitable ingredients like vegetables, fruits, or bread, are put back into the food system to extend their value.
The goal is to minimize food waste by utilizing leftovers from our distribution centers (DCs) due to overbuying, quality issues, or product damage during production. We set aside the ingredients that cannot be reused in our meal kits – and that are not accepted by food banks – for this purpose. Every week, leftover food is then sent directly from our DC in Bleiswijk to the Oranjehoen farm where it is processed and transformed. By using the repurposed waste to feed chickens that will be purchased in the future, the ultimate goal is to keep the supply chain in a loop in order to maximize the life of ingredients and minimize food loss and waste.
From a procurement point-of-view, this collaboration also promotes sustainable practices, considering that almost the entire chicken is utilized in our menu. Instead of purchasing only one part of the animal, as is common practice by many traditional companies in the food industry, we aim to get the most that we can out of the chickens for our recipes.
Additionally, our partnership with Oranjehoen extends beyond the supply chain. Oranjehoen and Storteboom – the company that processes the chickens – provide us with the CO2 emission data associated with sourcing the chickens for our recipes. The meals with the lowest climate impact are then highlighted in our menu, leading to a 5% increase in how often they are selected by customers as suggested by a user experience research we conducted in 2022. Ultimately, this is a mutually beneficial relationship that rewards Oranjehoen and Storteboom for their more sustainable agriculture and production methods. The success of the project speaks for itself: In 2023, it received recognition from “Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling” (Together Against Food Waste) alongside the local Province of Flevoland in the form of an award and subsidy to expand the program.
HelloFresh BNL receiving the award by “Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling”
Cooperation with the Buitelaar Group
Earlier this year, HelloFresh UK established a transformative partnership with the Buitelaar Group, a family-owned company with an arm of its business focusing on fighting food waste by repurposing ingredients. Similarly to the Circular Chicken Project, this partnership gives us confidence that the surplus food from our DCs finds a meaningful purpose beyond conventional waste disposal methods: The Buitelaar Group purchases these leftovers and processes them into ingredients for high-quality pet food.
Due to this process, we can be sure that our waste management is not only efficient but also traceable, with minimal environmental impact. Therefore, our cooperation has proved to be an invaluable asset in our efforts to implement proper management of waste in our facilities.
Since Buitelaar began repurposing in 2018, the project has saved approximately 1,000 tons of waste per week in the UK. In the 10 first weeks alone of our cooperation, we have saved 36 tonnes of waste from going to a landfill by being repurposed for pet food. And after only the first week of our collaboration, the waste-to-disposal rate in our UK DC that piloted the program dropped from almost 20% to 3.6%. Following the second week, we reached the impressive milestone of a waste-to-disposal rate of 0% at the same DC.
Given the success of the collaboration, we continue to monitor the impact on our value chain as we examine opportunities to further expand the program.
Repurposing: A long-term strategy for waste reduction
These two initiatives are just part of our journey toward a more sustainable and low-waste value chain. We remain committed to further reducing food waste and continuously seek new opportunities for repurposing and reimagining food resources. By collaborating with like-minded partners, our dedication to repurposing food waste has yielded remarkable results. Through initiatives such as the Circular Chicken Project and the collaboration with Buitelaar, we have made significant strides in implementing circularity within our operations. It became clear that repurposing food waste is not just a concept; it is a tangible solution to waste mismanagement and a fruitful tool in the transition toward a circular economy.
HelloFresh recognizes the pressing need to cut waste on all ends: from supplier to consumer. If you want to learn more about how we fight food waste, read about our redistribution initiatives, the role of our supply chain in keeping waste to a minimum, and how we advocate for dynamic food labeling with the goal of putting a halt to unnecessary food waste.