Norwegians want fresh bread, and we eat it for most meals. This also makes bread one of the foods that is the most wasted, specifically almost 300,000 loaves of bread every single day. Now, a research project where the goal is to halve this bread waste begins.

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Wenche Aale Hægermark  

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“We know why Norwegians waste so much bread, now we want to find out which solutions can help reduce bread waste, and how the surplus bread can be developed into new products,” senior scientist Valérie Almli at Nofima says. She is the leader/manager of the Bread Rescuers research project. 

Do you eat the end pieces of the bread? 

Good, but there are many who don’t. The end pieces probably make up a good portion of the bread that is thrown away. Other important reasons for bread waste are that the bread is no longer perceived as fresh, purchasing too much at a time and forgetfulness. Many people forget that they already have bread at home when they are in the store.  

Of all the food consumers waste, 18 percent is bread. The most frequently wasted foods are fruit and vegetables, followed by leftovers and in third place, bread.  

How much bread do you throw away? 

Families with children waste the most bread, and a large part of this waste is leftover sandwiches from the children’s packed lunches. However, no studies have been done on what would be the best way to reduce the families’ bread waste.  

The Bread Rescuers project will therefore invite parents and children to help find solutions to reduce bread waste in their children’s packed lunches.  

“One example can be that the children make their own packed lunches at home or at school. The families will weigh the leftovers from the packed lunches before and after they have tried out various measures, and that in itself may help raise awareness of how much bread they are wasting” says researcher Siril Alm at The Arctic University of Norway.  

The retail sector also wastes a lot of bread 

Although most bread is wasted at home, a lot of bread also ends up as waste in the retail sector and the baking industry. Here, bread waste accounts for as much as 42 per cent of all food waste. Out of all the waste of bread and bakery products, 35 per cent occurs in the retail sector and the baking industry and 54 per cent occurs in households. 

Bakeries and shops have already initiated several measures to reduce bread waste. They have improved their demand forecasts to align production volumes with expected demand. They offer baked goods at half price approaching closing time or use surplus food apps, and they have increased their offer of frozen alternatives. Nevertheless, bread waste remains high.  

One important reason for bread waste in grocery stores is that all the major grocery chains have agreements that they may return unsold bread to their suppliers, who in turn use the returned bread for animal feed, compost, or incineration. These agreements give the grocery chains low financial incentives to reduce orders for bread products.  

“We will identify and map which systemic structures that cause bread waste among the various stakeholders. We know that stores feel that they have to offer customers a wide selection of fresh bread right up until closing time to ensure that customers choose their store. This assumption has not previously been challenged. We also don’t know the effects it may have if stores actively communicate that a wide selection of fresh bread throughout the opening hours leads to more wasted bread. These are some of the systemic structures we want to investigate closer. We will study the value chain from production in bakeries to the distributors’ transport and up to the grocery stores that sell bread,” says Innovation Researcher Sveinung Grimsby at Nofima.  

More frozen options 

Stores throw away far less frozen than fresh food. This is also true for bread, and the same applies to consumers. Many consumers follow the recommendation to freeze sliced bread and only thaw the amount they will use at a time. By doing so, they contribute towards less wasted bread. But not everyone listens to the freezing advice. The consumers who report the highest amount of bread waste are those who are most concerned about freshness of bread as an indication of quality. They do not freeze bread to thaw it later, because they find that the thawed bread has a lower freshness.  

“In the project, we want to develop frozen bread products that also satisfy the discerning consumer. We will investigate how access to fresh and frozen bread, packaging information and price affect consumer choices. In addition, Nofima’s professional sensory panel will assess and map out the attributes of industrially frozen bread and compare them with freshly baked bread,” Sveinung Grimsby says. He is responsible for innovation research in the project and user-driven product development incorporating purchase point experiments. 

Crumble flour – an important ingredient 

Both in Norway and internationally, there are entrepreneurs who have developed new products incorporating surplus bread. Examples of such products are beer, Béchamel sauce and new bakery products.  

“In order to succeed in halving bread waste, it is necessary to find new solutions for the use of surplus bread. In the project, we will develop a crumble flour and potential new raw materials, based on returned bread. These can be used as an ingredient in a number of bakery products, and our goal is that the crumble flour can replace part of the wheat flour that is currently used in bread, says Per-Ole Arneberg, Quality Director at Mesterbakeren. He leads the work to develop solutions for the reuse of returned bread.  

In Norway, food safety regulations impose several restrictions on the reuse of returned bread, and these regulations must be taken into account when developing new products. 

Another challenge is that typical Norwegian whole grain bread often consists of several grain varieties and different seeds. This affects both the chemical composition and the functional properties of new ingredients. For instance, ingredients based on bread containing oats can easily turn rancid.  

“To develop new ingredients and bakery products that are both completely safe and appealing to consumers requires extensive knowledge of the process, chemistry and functional properties. We have gathered this expertise in BreadRescuers. The work to reduce bread waste begins now, and because most Norwegians eat bread every day, we believe that focusing on bread waste will make both consumers and retailers more aware of food waste in general”, Valérie Almli concludes.  

The project held its kick-off meeting at Nofima, with participants from Norsus, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, The Information Office for Bread and Cereal Korn and Mesterbakeren, in addition to Nofima. Photo: Lena Langeland, Nofima

Facts about the research project 

The project BreadRescuers – Reduced bread waste through innovative business and consumer strategies is a four-year Collaborative and Knowledge-building Project funded by the Research Council of Norway. Research institutes, universities, mills, bakeries (both industrial and artisanal bakeries), the retail sector, NGOs and food waste stakeholders are participants.  

The project is led by Nofima.

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