Why Keeping Produce Fresher for Longer Is More Important Now Than Ever Due to the Expected Rise in Prices for Groceries
Rising prices for groceries will put more pressure on consumers and business owners to find ways to help keep produce fresher for longer. According to Canada's Food Price Report, groceries will see increases between 3% to 7% on average. Understanding how produce spoils and finding ways to help it keep longer will help reduce the impact the rising prices have on businesses and consumers. Here we look at what factors are impacting soaring prices and how you can avoid loss due to spoilage to keep your costs down.
Why Grocery Bills Are Rising
Food price inflation could cost the average family just under $1000 more per year. This is the highest increase seen in over 12 years. So what’s causing this? Dairy farmers are seeing higher input costs for feed, energy and fertilizer. Add to this the cost of transportation and labour and it is making it impossible for them to avoid a price hike. Dairy could rise as much as just over 8%. Another impact on grocery bills is hot summers which devastated crops. As a result, foods like baked goods will see either a price increase or a size reduction of the average loaf or package. Food waste in Canada is also on the rise with half the food produced here being thrown away.
Food Supply Chain
The food supply chain is being affected in different ways. The chain includes production, processing and retailing. If any of these phases are impacted, it affects food prices. All of these factors can be impacted by a long list of issues from weather to demand and trends to availability. When cost increases take place at each stage, which is the current case, prices increase higher and faster. The pandemic had a huge impact because it reduced demand with restaurants closing or being limited in the number of customers they could serve. As a result, producers lost a major customer which made the cost of production more expensive for them. On the flip side, demand for groceries increased with more people cooking from home. However, any benefits seen through increased sales were counterbalanced by the costs of installing plexiglass barriers, paying for hand sanitizers, increasing store cleaning protocols and more. A shortage of staff willing to risk serving the public led to the need to offer incentives, which increased labour costs. Last but not least, a shortage of truckers willing to risk travel, or discouraged by difficulties in finding places to stop to use the bathroom or buy food pushed up processing and production costs even more.
Tips to Reduce Food Waste
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce food waste including:
- Reduce Humidity: Make sure your fridge is working properly and not producing too much moisture. Moisture is the mortal enemy of fresh produce, quickly leading to mould or turning produce to mush. If you wash food before storing it in the fridge make sure it is completely dry.
- Water Some Foods: In some cases, water can help conserve food, such as scallions or asparagus that can be stored root side down in water at room temperature. This acts the same way as placing fresh flowers in a vase. Fresh carrots and celery can be stored in a covered container of water. Just be sure you change the water daily to keep it fresh.
- Use Storage Bags: Placing produce in the fridge without protection can accelerate the rotting process. It can also cause food to dry out.
- Wash and Roll: A good way to store greens is to remove the stalk end, separate the leaves, rinse them, shake off the excess moisture and then roll them in clean paper towels placed in a clean bag. This works for fresh herbs as well.
- Separate “Gassy” Produce: The release of ethylene from some fruits and vegetables can speed up the rotting process for the produce stored in the same area. This includes potatoes, apples, pears and bananas. Keep these items stored separately to protect the other items in the fridge.
- Freeze Fruit: While many restaurants prefer to use fresh fruit, you can reduce waste by freezing fruit once it becomes ripe. This will prevent it from rotting. Frozen fruit can be used in a long list of foods from dressings to drinks and desserts to jams. They will stay fresh for up to three months. Frozen vegetables are not quite as freezer-friendly in most cases. However, items like corn and peas taste just as good frozen as fresh.
- Keep an Eye on Inventory: It’s easy to lose track of food items in the fridge if you can’t see them. Make sure you keep an eye on food stored in the fridge so you use it before it goes bad. Soft greens are the worst so be sure you have some salad items on the menu or reduce the amount you order. Other foods that don’t fare well include cucumbers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, peppers and cauliflower. On the flip side, hardier greens like kale and collard last longer.
- Pay Attention to Temperatures in Your Fridge: Fridges tend to have warmer and colder spots which can impact how long food lasts. The warmest part of the fridge is the door. In general, unless your refrigerator manual says otherwise, the lower parts of the fridge will be the coldest.
- Get Better at Inventory: Pay attention to the foods that spoil the fastest and how often you use them. This will help you become better at managing inventory to reduce waste. It also makes it easier to see what you have when your fridge isn’t crammed with too much food. Cramming food against the thermometer or the fans can also increase the risk for spoilage as your fridge can’t function properly.
- Choose the Right Commercial Fridge: A stainless steel refrigerator offers all the features you need to protect your produce. The electronic thermostat and digital LED temperature display offers accurate control and easy reading. Three adjustable, heavy-duty epoxy coated wire shelves per door allow you to sort and store produce for easy access. The condensate heating element and door frames are also designed for efficient evaporation of excess water to reduce moisture.
These tips will help keep produce fresher for longer to reduce waste and positively impact your bottom line.