A Complex Situation
The Middle East is known for its rich culture and traditions, often reflected in its cuisine. However, the region faces a disturbing issue: food waste. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that approximately one-third of the food produced worldwide is wasted or lost along the supply chain. In the Middle East, this issue is particularly alarming due to the region’s increasing population, expanding urban areas, and evolving consumption patterns. It is estimated that the Middle East discards around 250 kilograms of food per capita annually, making it one of the highest food-wasting regions globally.
The reasons behind this wastage go beyond cultural norms and traditions. While regulations and expiration dates do exist, they are not always enforced or followed. Additionally, the food system in the region faces challenges from non-climate stressors and climate change. The population is growing, income is increasing and there is a heightened demand for animal-sourced products, all while the planet’s resources are declining.
How can we ensure adequate food production in a world with a decreasing arable land and outdated supply systems, which is becoming increasingly apparent as the planet reaches its limit?
The Future of Food
The future of food production is uncertain, but one thing is certain: we need to change our approach. The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land warns that food security will be increasingly affected by projected future climate change. Amanda Little, in her book “The Fate of Food,” advocates a new approach that combines cultural changes with technical solutions. Two main types of changes are suggested: adopting alternative foods and minimizing food waste.
Startups in food waste avoidance
Startups and companies such as Happy Hours Market (*), Too Good to Go, Phoenix, Olio, Willy Anti-Gaspi (**), and Winim, are leading the way in food waste avoidance. These businesses are providing alternative solutions for surplus food, such as redistributing it to those in need or transforming it into new products.
More startups are needed to address the issue of food waste in the Middle East. While currently there are few companies operating in the region, entrepreneurs in the Middle East are increasingly recognizing the importance of acting on this topic.
As individuals, we can also do our part in avoiding food waste. Planning meals, storing food properly, and composting are just a few ways we can reduce our food waste and contribute to a sustainable food system.
While the Middle East region is facing challenges in the food system (importing a substantial amount of food), we need entrepreneurs to step up in their efforts for providing solutions to food waste avoidance. By adopting alternative foods and minimizing waste, we can contribute to a sustainable future and ensure food security for all.
I am interested in getting in touch with innovative startups (particularly in the Middle East), that focus on reducing food waste, creating a more sustainable food system, and contributing to the circular economy.
Send me an email.
“Food waste is not just a moral and economic issue, it’s also an environmental one. The amount of food that is wasted globally contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and other environmental problems. In the Middle East, where water resources are already scarce, throwing away food is like pouring water down the drain.”Dr. Mohamed El Raey, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
(*) Exited as an investor after a management buyout.
(**) I am an investor.