- A study from Karlstad University in Sweden found the country's most wasted supermarket food item is the banana, according to a recent article on Modern Farmer.
- Picky consumers are the primary cause of this waste. Most consumers only want to buy and eat spotless yellow bananas, even though they are edible when both bright green and completely black. This creates a high turnover rate for grocers, who want to consistently display attractive fruit to customers.
- The Swedish study also discovered that bananas generate the most food waste not only in terms of weight volume, but also environmental impact.
America’s favorite fruit is also most likely to end up in the trash: the humble banana.
The Karlstad University study focused on Swedish consumers, but American shoppers are also picky about their produce, preferring picture-perfect fruits and vegetables.
This contributes to the massive amount of food waste in the U.S. An estimated 10% of the food that hits store shelves every year goes to waste, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once consumers get their attractive produce home, roughly one-third of the food they buy and prepare will go uneaten.
Bananas are understandably at the top of the wasteful list. Consumers take on Goldilocks-esc qualities when deciding which bananas to buy and eat – this one is too green, that one has too many little black dots.
This research could provide a springboard for grocers to educate the public about food waste and ways to avoid it. It would be difficult to change consumer preferences for banana ripeness, but they can at least learn a bit more about the downside of tossing a perfectly good piece of fruit in the trash.
A number of grocery chains are already tackling the issue of food waste, and more appear to be coming on board. Whole Foods’ employees sort food waste at the retailer, while Trader Joe's donated more than $341 million worth of goods to food banks in 2016. Last spring, Kroger announced a "moonshot" effort to eliminate food waste across the company by 2025.
While an argument could be made for supermarkets to repurpose riper bananas for the prepared food section and bakery items, how much banana bread does a store really need? Cutting back on 'buy one, get one free' has been a successful strategy when it comes to produce, as many consumers often take home more than they will eat just because it's not costing them anything.