Girl in striped yellow t-shirt holding a carrot stick and standing next to a burger and a pile of carrot and cucumber sticks.

Food is precious. How can we avoid wasting it?

Did you know that one third of all food harvested and produced in the world is lost or wasted every day? It all adds up to about 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year. With over 420 store restaurants in 52 markets worldwide, we have both the scale and the will to make a difference.

Food has always been an important part of our business. Our first restaurant opened in 1959, and today 680 million people enjoy our food offer around the world. With this size comes a big responsibility – and an opportunity. Since 2017, our goal has been to reduce food waste in all the IKEA stores by 50% by the end of August 2020. And with the help of the right home furnishing products, we hope to inspire people to create new behaviours that reduce food waste, starting in our own kitchens.

Why measure every meal?

The first step was to start measuring food waste in IKEA restaurants, bistros and Swedish Food Markets around the world. Using a smart scale with a touch screen, co-workers now weigh and register the food that is thrown away each day. A simple act that has shown immediate and lasting results. Why? Because once they were aware, our co-workers could make small changes to routines and daily preparation, and see the results in real time.

Over 2.3 million kilos of food has been saved since the programme started two years ago, which is equivalent to more than 5 million standard meals.

The next step is to figure out how to reduce the amount of food customers leave on their plates. An initial study indicates that plate waste can be radically reduced by raising customer awareness, and by making small changes in our food preparation and serving routines, such as serving smaller portions.

Close up of the hands of man placing the lid on a clear food container.

When leftovers are visible in the fridge, they are less likely to end up in the bin.

What about food waste at home?

Research into food storage suggests that when leftovers are visible in the fridge, they are less likely to be wasted. So in 2018, the IKEA 365+ food storage system was launched. With sealed, see-through products like these, storing leftovers is practical, food stays fresh for longer, and we hope less of it gets thrown away. It’s also easy to combine the lids with jars and containers in different sizes and materials, making storing and re-heating the food even simpler.

We also want to encourage recycling waste rather than binning it. Products like the ones in our VARIERA system make it easy to separate different kinds of waste prior to composting or further processing. While nobody could claim that sorting directly reduces waste, it does enable customers to clearly see what they’re throwing away. And as the IKEA restaurant initiative shows, awareness can be the first step towards positive change.