Grocery Store Food Waste Statistics

Report Highlights

  • Grocery stores are responsible for 10% of food waste in the US.
  • Every year, US supermarkets waste about 43 billion pounds of food.
  • As much as 40% of grocery store food waste is still edible.
  • 44 states have no laws encouraging food donation.
  • Food waste accounts for about 30% of trash from grocery stores.
  • Imperfections, improper handling, and surplus lead to about 2%-5% of all food waste.
  • Up to a fifth of vegetables and fruits don’t meet cosmetic standards
  • Food waste causes 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world, more than every country except the US and China.
  • The total value of US food loss is $218 billion.
  • People in the US throw away twice as much food as people in other countries.

food waste stats

General Grocery Store Food Waste Statistics

These general statistics apply to foods that grocery stores waste or that customers of grocery stores don’t end up using.

  • Food waste would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses if it were a country.
  • Grocery stores lose as much as $18.2 billion per year due to food waste.
  • The difficulty in changing consumer habits has made it hard for grocery stores to reduce food waste.
  • Kroger aims to eliminate food waste due to donations and other methods by 2025.
  • Overstocking shelves to make produce look good is a big cause of food waste.
  • Food production uses about a quarter of all fresh water the US consumes.
  • Containers and other food packaging is responsible for about 23% of all landfill waste.
  • Over 80% of Americans toss out good food due to confusing expiration date labels.
  • Americans waste almost 40 million tons of food each year.
  • On average, 219 pounds of food is wasted per person in a year.
  • Impulse food purchases and overestimating how much to buy contributes to food waste.
  • Despite all of the food waste, as many as 50 million Americans suffer from food insecurity.
  • In a year, starvation can kill about 9 million people, more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria together.
  • Wasted food could feed the hungry more than four times.
  • Food makes up about 22% of all municipal solid waste.
  • Composting would reduce the amount of food in landfills significantly.
  • The production of food waste causes as many greenhouse gas emissions as 37 million cars.
  • An average family of four throws out about $1,600 worth of produce in a year.
  • Only about 3% of people associate throwing out food with a social stigma.
  • The USDA and FDA aim to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 from 2010 numbers.
  • Commercial food waste accounts for 61% of all food waste, or about 66 billion pounds.
  • Almost half of all food goes to waste due to quality and safety concerns.
  • Produce makes up almost a third of all food waste at 32.6%.
  • Dairy and eggs account for another 29.3% of all food waste.
  • Wasting one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef also leads to 50,000 liters of wasted water.
  • By state, Vermont wastes the most food.
  • Grocery stores toss about 122.7 million pounds of food daily.
  • About a fifth of meat from grocery stores gets tossed.
  • Roughly 19,000 new foods that aren’t popular will become food waste.
  • Large, inflexible packages of food can contribute to a significant amount of waste.
  • Increased portion sizes also account for a lot of waste, especially if people can’t get through all of what they buy.
  • Producing wasted food takes away natural resources, like energy, water, and physical labor.
  • As much as 9.5% of seafood gets lost at the retail and distribution level.

Supply Chain Food Waste Statistics

A significant part of grocery store food waste comes from the supply chain, as early as the farmer and as late as the consumer.

Consider how farms and manufacturing processes can lead to so much waste at the grocery store.

  • Between 21 and 33% of water used in farming is to farm produce that will go to waste.
  • Farmers may leave about 66,500 acres (4% of crops) unharvested on average.
  • The space used to grow wasted food makes up as much as 28% of all farmland.
  • Food manufacturing processes can lead to about 4% of food waste.
  • Buyer rejections lead to up to 5% of food waste.
  • As much as 40% of crops will never make it to someone’s table.
  • Consumer demand, market price, and produce quality can all lead to food waste at the farming stage.
  • New product development is a significant cause of food waste for manufacturers.
  • Food allergies can also lead to a lot of waste due to cross-contamination issues.
  • The value of food waste from grocery stores is twice that of the value of food sale profits.
  • Refining product management and enhancing product distribution could save about $14 billion.
  • Optimizing the harvest could save another $2 billion.
  • About 61% of all food waste occurs in homes, after people shop at the grocery store.
  • Sell-by date labels are some of the most confusing as consumers believe that date is the date when the food will go bad, even if it lasts much longer.
  • Farmers repurpose about 14.3% of food waste to feed their livestock.

Cosmetic Issues Statistics

Whether it’s grocery stores or shoppers, cosmetic issues can lead to a lot of food waste, but some businesses are fighting back.

Businesses have helped recover cosmetically damaged produce either for direct sale to consumers or as donations to food banks.

  • 10 million pounds of food wasted per year is wasted due to cosmetic imperfections.
  • Full Harvest and similar companies sell imperfect produce directly and have saved at least 15 million pounds of food.
  • Much of this waste is due to struct requirements from the USDA or specific grocery stores.
  • As much as 20% of produce from an agricultural business doesn’t meet grocery store or USDA requirements.
  • Businesses like Imperfect Produce sell directly to people, including those on food stamps, for less than what grocery stores charge.
  • Psychologists claim there’s a connection between avoiding ugly produce and one’s self-esteem.
  • Reducing cosmetic standards is one of the most effective ways to reduce food waste.

Food Waste Reduction Statistics

Reducing food waste is an excellent step that grocery stores and individuals can take to protect the environment.

Grocery stores and consumers can take steps to help lower the amount of food wasted.

  • As much as 88% of people want to reduce food waste.
  • Only about 10% of food waste gets donated, mostly due to barriers to donation.
  • Lability is a major concern for grocery stores considering donation.
  • Many grocery stores (Walmart, Kroger, Target, and more) are committing to reducing or even eliminating food waste in the next few years.
  • Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Publix are some grocery stores without transparent policies to reduce food waste.
  • Seven out of the top 10 grocery stores have yet to start working toward producing zero waste.
  • Kroger is relying on automated ordering systems to reduce the amount of produce the store orders to help with food waste.
  • Other stores can use automations and inventory management to help reduce waste.
  • gredients was a zero-waste grocer that opened in Austin in 2012 but had to shut down due to high ambitions to reduce waste.
  • Stop & Shop has saved over $100 million thanks to reducing food stock levels.
  • Feeding America was able to reduce food waste by 4.7 billion pounds in one year.
  • Other innovations could save much more food waste in a year.
  • About 19.5% of food waste gets donated to people in need.
  • In 2017, only about 6% of food waste didn’t go into a landfill or incinerator.
  • Reaching the USDA and FDA 2030 goals would save about 4 trillion gallons of water.
  • Meeting those goals would also reduce greenhouse gasses by 75 million metric tons.
  • Companies can save as much as $7 for every $1 they spend to help reduce food waste.
  • Public-private partnerships are essential for grocery stores to maintain efforts to cut down on wasted food.
  • Consumers can help by not buying as much food so that stores know not to order as much.
  • Placing a dollar value on the food you throw out can help you see the impact of that waste.
  • Relying more on your gut and your sense of smell than expiration dates could save a lot of food.

Food Waste Law Statistics

One of the ways we can combat food waste in grocery stores and throughout the supply chain is by enacting legislation.

Consider some existing and proposed laws for the US or specific states.

  • The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects stores from liability if they donate food that happens to be bad.
  • After banning food waste from landfills in Vermont, statewide food donations increased 40%.
  • While it has yet to pass, the Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 would standardize labeling requirements to make them less confusing for consumers.
  • California has a law requiring that stores divert 75% of food from landfills before 2025.