Finding out how to prevent in-home food waste requires insights into consumer behaviours, opinions, and day-to-day lives. To gain this knowledge, REFRESH organised twenty-four focus group discussions, six each in Germany, Hungary, Spain and The Netherlands. The focus groups delivered a variety of striking findings.
The focus group discussion explored the behaviours leading to food waste, participants’ motivation to (not) engage in food waste prevention and the obstacles they encounter when trying to avoid food waste.
While asking about their motivation to (not) waste food, it is very clear that consumers do not want to waste food, although there are large differences in awareness. It varies how bothered consumers feel by wasting food, and this seems related to how much a person knows about the consequences of food waste or feels that it is morally unjustified to waste. Although consumers generally have negative feelings about throwing away food, these feelings tend to be rather short-lived.
In all countries participants could recall conflicting aims which lead to food waste. These aims are sometimes very personal: e.g. not wanting to eat food if the taste was not favoured anymore. In other cases they are socially oriented: e.g. wanting to serve their household fresh and healthy food (rather than leftovers).
Across countries, several obstacles can be identified which complicate preventing food waste. Especially the packaging size, quality of the products and unpredictable social, work and household life are mentioned. We also find indications for possible country differences. For instance, in Spain, the economic crisis is mentioned as raising awareness about food waste, whereas in Germany the low price for food is seen as a reason for overconsumption and waste.
When talking about interventions, consumers have clear thoughts on what they think would help to lower the national food waste levels of consumers. These ideas range from motivational campaigns and household management tools, to governmental actions and changes at the retail level.
Publications with more detailed results of the focus groups will be available on the REFRESH website before the end of 2016. For more information, please contact Erica van Herpen at Erica.vanHerpen@wur.nl.