As a leading food company selling products in over 100 countries, General Mills recognizes that food waste is a major social, environmental and economic challenge that undermines food security, contributes to climate change, unnecessarily consumes natural resources like water, and adds more costs to families, communities and businesses alike.
- Estimates show that one third of all food produced never gets eaten (Source: FAO), with a large portion going to landfills where it emits potent greenhouse gases (GHGs).
- If global food waste were its own country, it would be the 3rd largest contributor to global warming behind China and the United States as measured by GHG emissions. (Source: FAO Food Wastage Footprint)
- Not only is food being wasted, but also the scarce natural resources that make food possible: 70% of fresh water use globally goes to agriculture. (Source: The World Bank)
- If just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world. (Source: FAO)
Read more about General Mills’ work to address hunger, climate change and water on our website.
Addressing Food Waste – a core relevance to our business
Our company purpose is to serve the world by making food that people love. Tackling food waste reduction is a business, moral and sustainability imperative for General Mills which strongly aligns with the company’s purpose. When less food gets wasted, lower levels of greenhouse gases are emitted, less fresh water is consumed, more people get fed, and businesses and people can use the savings to invest in other needs. For these reasons and more, General Mills is fully committed to a zero-waste culture that uses food and resources like energy and water wisely, minimizes our waste stream, reduces costs, maintains the support of the communities in which we operate and earns the trust of customers and employees.
Strategic Alignment with General Mills
Tackling food waste is aligned to multiple Company commitments:
- Climate / GHG Reduction – General Mills will reduce our absolute GHG emissions across our full value chain by 28% by 2025
- Zero Waste – We will achieve zero waste to landfill at 30% of our owned production facilities by 2020 and 100% by 2025
- Philanthropic priorities – Increase Community Food Security; Advance the Sustainability of Agriculture; and Strengthen Our Hometown Communities
- General Mills has publicly pledged its support of the achievement of the United Nation’s global goals, including SDG 12.3, "... to halve per capita food waste from current levels by 2030..."
General Mills is committed to increasing surplus food recovery as a significant impact opportunity, especially among consumer-facing food businesses – grocery stores, restaurants and other food outlets that collectively account for 40 percent of all food waste, or 50 billion pounds per year in the U.S. alone. Our goal is to empower 30,000 food businesses in surplus food recovery by 2021. The General Mills Food Waste Action Team (comprised of employees from global sustainability, philanthropy, supply chain, government affairs and environmental standards) helps direct targeted actions to meet this and other goals.
General Mills, in partnership with its foundation and external partners, is catalyzing a new frontier of food waste reduction and surplus food recovery, to date empowering tens of thousands of businesses across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom with food recovery solutions.
We take a collective impact approach by working closely with internal and external partners, including cross-sector coalitions and non-profit organizations around the globe, to scale innovative new capabilities that make it easier for food businesses and others to donate rather than destroy their surplus food.
Partnering for Positive Impact
- In the United States, General Mills has played a key role in launching MealConnect, the first surplus food recovery technology platform that is fully integrated with the more than 200 food banks nationwide that are members of Feeding America. Today more than 23,000 grocery stores, cafeterias, restaurants and other food businesses use MealConnect to efficiently donate (to charities that feed people) rather than dispose of (send to landfill) their surplus food. The platform to date has recovered 900 million pounds of surplus food from U.S. grocery retailers and foodservice operators. General Mills provided a US$1 million grant – in addition to pro bono marketing support and strategic advisement – to help Feeding America refine and launch the food recovery platform. As a result, food retailers and foodservice operators coast-to-coast now have a free tool that makes it quick and easy to manage their surplus food in a way that is good for the planet, people and the bottom line.
- Building on the successful launch of MealConnect, we partnered with the Sodexo team that operates the employee cafeteria at General Mills’ world headquarters to pilot and adopt the MealConnect food recovery platform, so that surplus food from our onsite cafeteria is now consistently and efficiently donated to local charities. The insights from the pilot at General Mills are now helping Feeding America food banks like Minnesota-based Second Harvest Heartland to assist other corporations with improving their surplus food recovery from employee cafeterias.
- Recognizing the final product delivery phase can bring with it unexpected opportunities to donate surplus food, we engaged our lead transportation partners (trucking companies) in a national pilot using MealConnect in 2017. We quickly saw that the platform was giving truckers an efficient way to safely donate food that may have become unsaleable due to packaging damage during transport, or other reasons. To date, more than sixteen of General Mills’ largest transportation partners representing the majority of General Mills’ U.S. carrier volume are using the MealConnect platform to safely and quickly donate food that has become unsaleable; freeing up precious carrier capacity by getting trucks back on the road faster, and by keeping millions of pounds of perfectly good food from going to landfills.
- In the United Kingdom, the General Mills Foundation partnered with leading food recovery nonprofit, FareShare UK, to improve and scale a food recovery mobile technology for food businesses called "FareShare Go." These enhancements enabled Tesco to adopt the food rescue solution in their stores, with Waitrose and other UK retailers now integrating the FareShareGo food recovery platform. In 2017 alone, 3,000 stores and restaurants in the UK used the new capability to rescue 6.5 million pounds of food that was transformed into meals for charities serving the hungry in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- General Mills shared the key learnings from the U.K. and the U.S. with food recovery and anti-hunger organizations in Canada, who are now piloting an adaptation of these models in two Canadian provinces - Ontario and Saskatchewan.
- General Mills’ philanthropic support of The Campus Kitchens Project and the Food Recovery Network has to date resulted in 125,000 college students being directly engaged in operating hunger and food waste reduction programs on and around their campuses. With a combined reach to date of 230 colleges and universities in 44 states, these two nonprofits are cultivating the next generation of food waste and hunger fighting leaders.
- Recognizing that ending food waste requires actions and commitment well beyond the food industry, General Mills supports the work of ReFED, a leading multi-stakeholder nonprofit powered by a network of leading business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste. ReFED has identified 27 of the best opportunities to reduce food waste through the Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste, a first-of-its-kind economic analysis, making it easier for stakeholders to take targeted actions in order to meet food waste reduction goals.
Helping Consumers Save Food at Home
The most effective way to minimize the impact of food waste is to limit the amount of waste created in the first place. While we devote considerable time, through our Holistic Margin Management Initiative (HMM) and Continuous Improvement (CI) efforts, to reduce food waste by improving our processes in our plants, we also are working to help educate consumers on ways for them to save food at home.
- General Mills proudly promotes Save The Food, a campaign from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council that provides tips on how to store, cook, share and save food.
- In 2018, General Mills developed and launched the "Taste Not Waste" campaign on bettycrocker.com helping consumers minimize food waste in their own homes through creative recipes on how to use remaining produce and ingredients, and educational resources on how to get smarter about reducing food waste.
- General Mills is leading on standardizing date labels to reduce consumer confusion caused by the myriad of date code phrases used on food packages today. We’re part of an industry-wide effort launched by the largest grocery producers and retailers to streamline and standardize the wording accompanying date labels on packages to offer greater clarity about the quality and safety of products. This will help reduce consumer confusion over dates on the product label which can result in unnecessary food waste. You can read more about this initiative here.
Combatting Waste in Our Facilities
With General Mills owned-production facilities located around the globe, we know that we have an important role to play, so every facility has a target to reduce production solid waste generation by 3 percent annually, normalized to production.
- During 2018, 79 percent of our production solid waste globally was recycled, 10 percent was disposed* and 11 percent was processed for energy recovery
- Worldwide, at the end of fiscal 2018, 10 General Mills production facilities (20 percent of the global total) met our zero-waste-to-landfill criteria.**
While we are proud of our progress, we continue working to meet our target to achieve zero waste to landfill at 30 percent of our owned production facilities by 2020 and 100 percent by 2025.
*Disposal includes landfill and incineration without energy recovery.
** These facilities sent no waste to landfill or incineration without energy recovery.
Leading on Public Policy
At General Mills, we know that we alone cannot solve food waste. Meaningful change can be made by building strong partnerships and collaboration across the industry.
- General Mills is a founding partner of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, a collaborative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and active member of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. The Alliance is a partnership of U.S. food manufacturers, grocery retailers and restaurants and foodservice companies.
- General Mills is an active member of the International Food Waste Coalition, which is developing strategies to address food waste in the E.U.