Addressing Food Waste at the Retail Level

An exploratory study about consumer interactions with produce displays and its effect on food waste.




Faculty of Environment


REM 363


  • Tammara Soma

City of Vancouver:

  • Erin Nichols

Student Team:

  • Montana Goloubef
  • Japneet Grewal
  • Nell Jędrzejczyk
  • Lynn Kyengo
  • Manuel Medina
  • Kyle Simon
  • William Lionhart


  • Greenest City Action Plan (GCAP)

City goal area:

  • Zero Waste


Fall Semester 2019


Our project investigates the perceptions, preferences, and practices of consumers regarding the display of produce in supermarkets located within Metro Vancouver. Specifically, we sought to understand how individuals interact with produce displays and how these interactions may lead to food waste at the retail level. Through our investigation we learned four main things: (1) consumers prefer individual selection over pre-packaged amounts of produce; (2) consumers prefer to see and select from full yet shallower displays with variety over deep piles of produce; (3) consumers would like to see more informational/educational produce programs; and, (4) consumers are willing to buy suboptimal produce if offered at discount rates.

The focus of our problem: factors that influence consumer choice, their effect on the creation of produce generated food waste, and recommendations for how to mitigate the mechanisms responsible for food waste generation. For this study, we collected data by issuing an online survey and conducting one-on-one interviews with the latter approach designed to supplement the former. Our research design enabled us to respond to our research inquiry with quantitative data for statistical analysis and qualitative data for substantiation. Overall, we were able to collect a sample of 143 fully completed responses and facilitate 7 in-depth interviews. We asked a total of 40 closed-ended questions with the survey, and 6 open-ended questions in the interviews. We inquired about produce displays (quantity, merchandising, and variety), produce state (quality and shape), and produce education (information and tips). A primary aspect of inquiry for both our methods of data collection is a visual assessment test where we ask respondents to compare and evaluate pictures of different types of produce side-by-side, comparing produce of different quality and quantity.

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