Frozen Food: The Ultimate Waste Saver
Mar 01, 2022
As a matter of survival, restaurants learned to operate more efficiently during the pandemic, working with smaller staffs and limited menus in a fight for profitability.
Still, there’s one inefficiency many operators have yet to tackle: food waste.
U.S. restaurants waste 4% to 10% of their total food purchases—up to 33 billion pounds per year—before they ever reach the table.1
Why does this matter?
It’s bad for the environment. Producing food requires tremendous amounts of energy, water, land and nutrients, all of which are squandered when it isn’t eaten. It’s not great for landfills, either.
It’s bad for your bottom line. Just think what 4% to 10% of all the money you spent on food last year amounts to. Now imagine setting fire to it.
It’s bad for society. In 2020, 14.8% of U.S. households with children were food insecure, making food waste that much more unacceptable.2
As noted in an earlier post, many restaurants are making huge strides on the issue of waste, and they’re being rewarded for the effort: by one estimate, operators receive a return of $7 for every dollar spent on food waste reduction.3
So how can using more frozen food help?
Frozen yields are much higher than fresh
One of the best things about frozen fruit and vegetables is how much of the package is actually edible product—a.k.a. the yield. The processor has already removed the stalks, leaves and stems that would otherwise be trimmed by your staff and discarded. Because of this processing, fresh produce yields less—sometimes far less—than its frozen counterparts.
According to the USDA, here’s what you can expect to yield on average from raw fruit and vegetables:4
Avocado, Hass 68%
Brussels Sprouts 90%
Carrots (with tops) 59%
Cauliflower (with base of leaf stalks) 55%
Corn (in husk, kernels removed) 36%
Peas (unshelled) 38%
Peppers, Sweet 82%
Potato (raw pared) 81%
Strawberries (good quality) 94%
Sweet Potatoes (hand- or machine-pared) 80%
As one example, if you wanted to prepare cut corn from a case of fresh corn, 64% of that case will go to waste vs. the kernels (36%) that you’ll be able to sell.
The “waste” from frozen food processing can be repurposed
What happens to all of those stalks, leaves and stems removed by machines? At Simplot, we have long redirected the inedible cellulose and trim from vegetable processing into nutritious feed for cattle, helping produce even more food.
At our avocado processing plants in Mexico, the pits, peels and damaged fruit don’t go to waste.
- 74% of this material is composted to recycle their nutrients as fertilizer.
- 24.5% is repurposed as biofuel in steel production.
- 1% is pressed to make healthy avocado cooking oil.
- 0.5% is refined to create polymers for products like bioplastic eating utensils.
- 0% is landfilled.
As a company, we have pledged to reduce landfilled waste to zero from all of our food processing facilities by 2030. Learn more about our 4Sight 2030 sustainability goals.
Frozen offers two years of shelf life, reducing spoilage
Spoilage is another drag on the yield of fresh produce. After days or weeks in the food supply chain, fresh vegetables may not be very fresh by the time they reach you. Depending on how fast you can use them, you may be left with a substantial portion you can’t sell. It’s a factor made worse by the inconsistent nature of customer traffic during the pandemic.
Frozen vegetables and fruit, by comparison, maintain their quality for up to two years in the freezer, giving you great flexibility in when you serve them. Use only what you need; leave the rest in the freezer. Simplot’s Ready-to-Eat (RTE) frozen products offer up to 6 days refrigerated shelf life, plus the efficiency of thaw and serve straight from the package.
Less waste isn’t the only benefit of frozen
If reducing food waste isn’t a priority of yours, there are still plenty of good reasons to use more frozen vegetables and fruits.
Labor savings. Prepping fresh produce by hand is one of the most labor-intensive tasks in any kitchen. With the cost of labor rising, it doesn’t always make financial sense to do it yourself, especially when the produce will be used in a recipe, making any difference from fresh even more negligible. With many kitchens short-staffed today, frozen’s heat-and-serve simplicity can be a huge help.
Cost savings. While frozen fruit and vegetables may have a higher case cost up front, frozen’s high yield and labor savings can more than make up the difference. As noted above, a case of fresh corn only yields 36% edible product. This makes its actual cost per pound almost three times higher than its market price—and this is without factoring in all of the labor to prepare it.
Comparable nutritional content. Today’s frozen vegetables and fruit are usually processed quickly after harvest and flash frozen, preserving their vitamins and mineral content. The nutritional content of fresh produce, on the other hand, will diminish over the days and weeks it spends in the fresh supply chain. So frozen is at least as nutritious as fresh, sometimes more.
Year-round availability and consistent pricing. Frozen removes the seasonal limitations of menuing many vegetables and fruits, so your customers can continue to enjoy the flavors they love year-round. And consistent pricing makes your food costs more predictable.
More consistent quality. Getting consistent blend ratios, piece size or roasting, day in, day out, can be a real challenge. Frozen makes it much easier.
Frozen is the answer to labor and waste
Sustainability and the environment are important to your customers. According to research, food waste ranks higher than single-use plastic waste on their list of concerns.5 Frozen products can serve as a valuable complement to fresh produce, helping you reduce food waste and build your own sustainability story.
3 Champions 12.3, “The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Restaurants,” 2019
5 Datassential, 2020