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October 16 2012

Supermarkets Find that Less Inventory Means More Money (and Less Waste)

We think we want more. We actually want less: less variety, less confusion, less options. This counterintuitive Paradox of Choice (watch the TED talk by Swarthmore College psychologist Barry Schwartz to understand how this works) is driving a new movement by supermarkets, restaurants, and others to slash some of the billions of dollars in food waste every year, and save hundreds of millions of dollars, by doing something simple: offering less.

In 2008, total food loss in the U.S. climbed to $165.6 billion (at retail prices), about one-third of it in the nation's supermarkets. Yet our waste stream keeps on growing: Today, up to 40% of the nation's food supply is tossed, up from 30% in 1974. While the national trend isn't reversing, companies armed with massive data sets about what sells and what doesn't have found ways to increase profits and cut waste.

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