Food waste is a major problem across the globe – not only does the U.S. alone throw away close to $200 billion in food each year, but the annual waste also contributes to 13% of food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Many companies in the smart kitchen and food tech space are looking at ways to use food data, cooking techniques and storage mechanisms to reduce food waste. For businesses like restaurants and hotels, throwing away unused food is bad economic sense as well. Food wasted and not sold is profit down the drain, making it an obvious area to explore efficiencies and new technologies.
One U.K. based company has created a solution specifically for the hospitality industry that has the potential to drive smarter ordering and cooking in the commercial kitchen. The Winnow System is a touch interface connected to a smart meter – before anyone dumps food in the trash, they select an icon on the screen to categorize the food being discarded. The system measures the weight of the food waste and marks trends and data over time.
Winnow — an old agricultural term meaning to separate the grain from the chaff, or to separate the good from the bad — is able to use the data from everyday usage to identify and prevent avoidable waste in the kitchen. Chefs and restaurant managers are given insights into where to make improvements and how to dramatically reduce costs. Winnow Solutions has deployed over 100 solutions across the U.K. and reports a 2-6% improvement in gross margins for their customers, saving over £1m. The information that managers receive from the system allows them to purchase smarter as well as find better ways of serving and storing the food they do purchase. One hospitality executive found that eggs at the hotel breakfast buffet were consistently thrown away in massive quantities every morning. The hotel did away with eggs at the buffet and instead set up a custom egg station for customers wanting cooked eggs with breakfast, saving hundreds of pounds of wasted eggs each week.
The Winnow System is not designed for the consumer kitchen – yet. But several professional kitchen technologies have trickled down over time and solutions developed for business often have consumer applications. And there are products hitting the market today that have some tools to manage the food in our kitchens more efficiently. The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator is connected to Wi-Fi and has interior cameras that allow users to see what’s in their fridge and what state it’s in.
We might have an idea of the food we throw away at the end of the week in our homes, but seeing the hard data, easily analyzed and displayed in front of us as we decide what to buy and cook could be a powerful force to change our behaviors and habits.