When studying food waste behavior, several different issues arise, and it is important not to consider this as an isolated phenomenon, but something that occurs in the mix of several variables. Economy (people can afford waste), overproduction of foods, surplus food, retail systems, availability of food, consumer behavior, consumer preferences, packaging, and waste management systems are all variables that increase food waste. Earlier studies have shown a number of different drivers for the wasting of food in general. These include portion size, date labelling and shelf life, storage conditions and marketing strategies (buy two and get one free). Consumer characteristics—such as age, type of household, and family situation—are also important factors that influence the amount of food being wasted from households. Additionally, attitudes, life style, interests, and knowledge concerning food [1
] show the complexity of the system that creates food waste. There is an increasing volume of literature regarding the role of consumers in food waste in general and the way in which this differs in relation to demographic factors and varying living conditions [3
]. Some studies have shown that young people waste more food than older people, and that income, education, and gender influence the amount of food being wasted [3
]. This was however not found in the study by de Hooge et al. [7
], where younger people selected suboptimal food and wasted less food than older people, indicating that there could be a market for suboptimal bread ensuring that it was sold for a lower price, for example, the next morning. Other factors including the country of residence, environmental consciousness, and engagement in food preparation and cooking were also important [7
The volume of research specifically focusing on the wasting of bread is far from extensive. There are, however, a few projects worth mentioning. Research into food waste in Norway has shown that Norwegian consumers each throw away about 5.5 kg of bread per year and 2.9 kg of other bakery products [8
]. This is roughly 2.8 slices of fresh bread wasted per person in Norway every week or, in total, about 39 million loaves of bread per year in Norway. Numbers from Eurostat show that the annual consumption of bread in Norway is about 80 kg per person per year, which is higher than in most other countries in Europe. This figure might explain why wastage of fresh bread is so high in Norway, and contributes a major share of the total amount of food being wasted at home (about 19% [8
]). Fresh bread is usually packed either in paper bags, plastic bags, or in a combination of paper with a plastic ‘window’ on the front, none of which can be closed. The design and/or functionality of packaging solutions in relation to the reduction of food waste has not been a topic in scientific papers. There are also only a few publications dealing with packaging solutions for fresh bread, and consumer preferences regarding bread quality and packaging, and behavior relating to the buying, storing, and waste of bread in households.
There is some research on suboptimal foods [7
] with focus on the possibility of saving food that is oddly shaped, has a minor quality reduction, or a dent in the packaging, from going to waste, while offering these foods at a discounted price. The study by de Hooge et al. [7
] is interesting as it concludes that consumers are open to purchasing products that deviate on the basis of shape, best-before-date, or damaged packaging so long as there is also a price discount for the reduction in quality.
Although there are relatively few studies of food waste by consumers in relation to bread, there are several studies available from other parts of the value chain. Stensgård & Hanssen [8
] have shown that fresh bread is the product group with the highest percentage of turnover being wasted (more than 9% per year). Brancoli et al. [9
] analyzed annual food waste in a supermarket in Sweden. Meat and bread are the two food product groups with the highest environmental footprint in supermarkets. In the case of bread this is principally due to the high volumes sold. Bread waste constituted an annual volume of 6.7 tons per year in one supermarket alone. Efforts towards reducing wastage of fresh bread can thus make a major impact on the environment.
Life cycle assessment studies clearly indicate that food waste prevention in general is the most important strategy for packaging optimization for most types of food [10
]. The size of both the products offered and packaging solutions also have significance. To prevent food waste, it is important that the packaging has the correct barrier properties to ensure food safety, and if possible can be opened and closed by users to preserve the food.
The aim of this study was to increase understanding and knowledge regarding preferences, attitudes, and behavior of consumers, to be used in development of new and better packaging and packaging system and prevent food waste. Our aims were further to gain more insight in how consumers’ perception of current packaging solutions for fresh bread, of the shopping behavior of different categories of consumers, how fresh bread is stored at home, and how much fresh bread is wasted. It is important to obtain greater insight into consumer preferences as well as knowledge concerning packaging, and to be able to use this in the development of new and better packaging and packaging systems, to prevent food waste.
3. Methodology and Data Gathering
A standard methodological approach for consumer research was taken as the basis for this study, where approximately 1000 respondents in Norway were selected in a web-based survey carried out by Norstat within their web panel framework. The cohort was representative of the relevant population characteristics of the Norwegian population, and aged between 19 and 91 years old. The average age being 50. Five principal research themes were selected for focus as described in the previous section, with a total of 26 multi-response questions. The Likert model was used, with five alternative answers in addition to the ‘do not know/will not answer’ option for each question. In addition, the questionnaire was supplemented by a quantity of standard data regarding the personal characteristics of the respondents, comprising the area where they lived; the number of people in each household; age; education; civil status; employment status; income; and level of education. The respondents were also asked to estimate the number of slices of fresh bread that were wasted from their households, in categories ranging from 0, 1–3, 4–6, 7–10, and more than 10 per week. The frequency of respondents’ bread wastage in each category is shown in Table 1
and indicates that a large group of consumers reported wasting no bread at all. These constituted about 43% of the total, whereas 30% reported wasting 1–3 slices per week.
The rationale behind the criteria for high-wasters was that figures for Norway showed that the per capita wastage of bread was approximately 5.5 kg in 2015 [5
]. Based on the average weight of a loaf as being 0.75 kg, the number of slices per loaf as about 20, and number of people in average households in Norway as being 2.3, it was estimated that each household wasted about 6.5 slices of bread per week. High-wasters were then defined as reporting a greater waste of bread than average, that is to say, all the categories from 7–9 slices and upwards were included (Table 1
) in the cross-tab analyses.
The step-wise regression analyses were carried out on all 1000 respondents and with focus on the correlation between the number of slices of fresh bread that were reported to be wasted by each respondent, and all the different characterization factors included in the survey.
The research is based both on what consumers themselves believe they intend to buy, use, and waste and what they believe they have in fact done.
5. Discussion and Conclusions
This study is one of the few detailed studies on consumer behavior and attitudes with regard to food waste in relation to freshly baked bread. The large amount of bread wasted in Norway could be a consequence of the fact that data from Eurostat indicates that bread consumption is higher in Norway than in many other parts of Europe, but the same picture seems also to apply in Sweden and Finland. There, however, the amount of fresh bread wasted is lower [11
]. It is therefore important to identify both the root causes as to why so much fresh bread is wasted, and who is represented in this high-wasting group.
The type of study being carried out through web-based panels for consumer surveys do, of course, have some weaknesses. Firstly, respondents are probably more positive regarding their own behavior and attitudes than the real situation would reveal when they are making realistic, practical choices in life. This could probably make the whole study too optimistic with regard to the respondents’ own behavior, how much bread is wasted, and their own attitudes and values. The weighted average of how many slices of bread wasted per week in Norwegian households is about 2.3 based on data from this survey, whereas the estimate of wasted slices per households based on waste morphological studies [8
] is about 3.45 slices per person per day, or about 7.9 slices per household per day in Norway. It is not known if this is a systematic underestimate within the entire sample or if it underestimates more for one group than others, but as the sample size is quite large, it is assumed to be levelled out over the whole sample. Secondly, there is also the question as to whether web-based surveys give representative samples and cohorts of the whole Norwegian population, or if some groups are systematically underrepresented. Compared with the average demographic figures for the entire Norwegian population, the 1000 people in the sample covered by the web panel seem to be representative regarding most factors.
This study shows quite clearly that young families with small or young children are the key groups that require focus in Norway, in line with other studies being done both in Norway and in many other countries [3
]. High-wasting people buy bread more frequently than low-wasting people and they also buy more bread per shopping trip. The price of bread has increased significantly over the last years in Norway, giving incentives to reduce wasting of fresh bread by those consumers that buy the most bread.
The study also indicates two important characteristics of high-wasters when compared with low-wasters. This the fact that they have a higher preference for fresh bread and that they are less environmentally conscious, as shown by their lack of preferences for environmentally friendly packaging. Even more important is the fact that they are less oriented towards proper storage of fresh bread at home, by freezing it in parts or by using a toaster to make the older bread more edible. Typical high-wasters are probably found in families with little time and relatively high income, with a large volume of bread being consumed per day and per week because of there being many young family members.
The findings that young people in the age group 25–49 are the worst with regard to food waste behavior are in line with other studies, both in Norway [8
] and in the UK [3
]. These show, however, contrary findings to [7
] in that young people are more positive to food items which look less perfect than standard products. Young people are also much more focused on wasting products that have passed their expiry date [5
], although this is not directly relevant to fresh bread where a date label system is not used. The same type of mechanism is however relevant for fresh bread, where it is easy to select a new day-fresh loaf instead of yesterday’s dryer and less tasty bread.
Packaging might be a driver towards increased food waste where the packaging is damaged in the distribution phase, if the primary or secondary packaging is too big or if the packaging is not optimal with regard to protection of the food [10
]. One key objective of this study has been to learn more about how better packaging solutions can contribute to less food waste at a household level and with reduced environmental burdens throughout the life cycle. This study indicates that better packaging solutions can help consumers waste less fresh bread, especially the high-wasters who are major consumers of bread, but also have the least developed routines at home for storing and processing fresh bread by freezing and toasting. They are however positive towards selecting new types of packaging that could prevent loss of freshness for a longer time, and also display a high level of willingness to pay for such a type of packaging. Consumers were not asked explicitly if the loaf was too big, and whether smaller loaves with smaller packaging solutions could have reduced food waste. This is certainly a factor that should be followed up in further studies in the area. Hanssen et al. [15
] have shown that the total cost of packaging of all bread that is sold in Norway is only about 9% of the cost of bread being wasted. In the case of GHG-emissions, the total burden of all packaging used for bread distribution in Norway is on the same scale as GHG-emissions from production and distribution of about 70% of all the bread being wasted in Norway. There is thus a sizeable potential for the development of new packaging solutions, both from an economic and an environmental point of view, which could cost significantly more if they contributed to a reduction in the amount of fresh bread being wasted.
To conclude, this research contributes with an insight into consumer behavior and attitudes relating to the waste of fresh bread. Based on all the available quantitative data, it is possible to develop strategies and ideas for packaging as well as products that better accommodate what the different groups of consumers want and need. As the study also identifies the demographic characteristics of the groups of consumers, it is easier to target the high-wasters and devise solutions which can be tailor-made for them. The findings from this study will thus provide useful insight for those who work with the development of packaging and products within the food industry, as well as supermarket chains, as it identifies consumer preferences and viewpoints on packaging and quality factors relating to fresh bread.