How IMCD’s Commitment to Sustainability Drives Innovation

For the Food & Nutrition team, food waste is a key focus and represents an important aspect of the company’s sustainability plan.

This past spring, Colin Wheeler-James, IMCD’s European Development Chef, attended Customer Insight Days throughout the region to support teams in bringing innovation to customers. At one of the events, Innova Market Insights presented a key insight: Consumers rank “health of the planet” as their top global issue, over “health of the population.”


As consumers look for sustainable food options, manufacturers are increasingly using items traditionally considered waste products to develop effective retail products. Wheeler-James works with customers as a part of that effort. “I see rising awareness, especially within the hospitality industry, to create clever solutions incorporating waste streams to reduce landfill and improve margin and corporate sustainability targets,” he says.


For the Customer Insight Days, the chef created two dishes that integrated waste streams with IMCD’s product portfolio: Watermelon Bacon, which utilised watermelon rind, and Fish Pastrami, which used spent coffee grounds to cure the fish. “Both these concepts showed aspects of our portfolio working together to maximise the potential of food waste, and they stimulated much conversation with our customers,” says Wheeler-James.


These efforts ladder up to IMCD’s own commitment to sustainability, including its 2030 Sustainability Agenda. “Reducing food loss and waste is critical to improving the food security of vulnerable groups and decreasing the environmental footprint of food production activities,” says Stan Bijsterveld, IMCD Global Director of Global Supply Chain, Regulatory, Quality, and Sustainability.


The Food & Nutrition Group’s sustainable product solutions have the potential to contribute to several dimensions of the 2030 Sustainability Agenda, such as:

  • eradicating food insecurity and hunger

  • ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation

  • conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resource

“We know considerable reduction of food loss is possible through the identification of the critical loss points and taking appropriate countermeasures. We can use data collection efforts to develop evidence-based, targeted actions,” says Stan Bijsterveld, IMCD Global Director of Supply Chain, Regulatory, Quality, Sustainability.

The Impact of Food Wastage


Food wastage includes food loss – a decrease in the amount or quality of food due to supply chain inefficiencies or lack of technology, skills and access – as well as food waste – food that is discarded due to spoilage, oversupply or individual consumer shopping and eating habits.


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the global volume of food wastage is estimated to be 1.6 billion tonnes of “primary product equivalents,” of which 1.3 billion tonnes is edible. Much of this food ends up in landfills, with a low percentage being composted.


“An unacceptably high proportion of food is lost along the supply chain before it even reaches the consumer,” says Bijsterveld. “Globally, an estimated 14 percent of the world’s food is lost from production before reaching the retail level. These estimates vary across regions, going from as high as 20.7 percent in Central and Southern Asia to 5.8 percent in Australia and New Zealand.”


The topic of food waste is a global issue. It’s an issue that affects everyone — from multinational corporations to individual households — and has a significant impact on the planet and its resources.


Food wastage translates to a carbon footprint of about 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year. Each year, that lost and wasted food uses a total volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva — as well as 1.4 billion hectares of land, or 28 percent of the world’s agricultural area.

“We all need to take steps to reduce the amount of food we waste, and therefore reduce our impact upon the planet,” says Colin Wheeler-James, IMCD’s European Development Chef

Making an Individual Impact

From a personal perspective, what can we each do to reduce food waste? Wheeler-James shares a few tips:


Smart Shopping

  • Plan meals and only buy ingredients to make those meals.

  • Before you go shopping, take a “shelfie” — a photo of your fridge or cupboard to remind you what you already have.

  • Don’t shop when hungry!


Maximise Your Food

  • Ignore “best before” dates on fruit and vegetables.

  • Most food can be frozen. If you have an oversupply of fresh vegetables, make soup, stew, or pasta sauce and freeze it.

  • Compost your leftovers. It’s by far the most environmentally friendly thing to do with food other than eating it.


Creative Solutions

  • Vegetable or potato peelings make great crisps. Wash, drizzle with rapeseed oil, toss in salt and pepper or a favourite spice, spread on a tray and cook in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes till golden and crisp.

  • Freeze citrus peel in ice cube trays and add to chilled drinks.

  • Trimmed Christmas tree branches make great tea! Simply dry the needles, store in a jar and pour over boiling water. Alternatively, whip up the needles with sugar to make a refreshing, citrusy baking ingredient. (Be sure your tree hasn’t been sprayed – buy locally!)


“A lot of people struggle with the enormity of the climate crisis and feel that whatever they do has little consequence,” says Wheeler-James. “My message is lots of little changes add up to big changes. Can you do more today than you did yesterday?”


Ready to Take on the Challenge

IMCD’s sustainability efforts have environmental, social and economic impacts. The company’s Food & Nutrition team looks to bring value to its customers, and the topic of waste streams is now a part of that value proposition.


Knowing manufacturers are looking to maximise their operational effectiveness to reduce waste and cost, the Food & Nutrition group engages with customers about the challenges they face and the waste streams they produce. Those conversations present opportunities to provide new outlets for waste products.


With a unique skill set and deep level of care, the experts on the Food & Nutrition team stand ready to take on sustainability challenges and provide solutions that help their customers grow through creating a world of opportunity.