Econometric modelling and household food waste

In 2009, WRAP developed an econometric model which examines the interplay between: macroeconomic factors, such as household incomes and food prices; household awareness of food waste; and the weight of food purchased and wasted by households.

Initial results suggested that food waste awareness had a statistically significant impact on food purchasing behaviour and food waste, and that consumers may find ways to waste less food without changing either their overall spending on food. However, the amount of food purchased is reduced because less food is wasted. In other words, consumers may ‘trade up’ towards higher price foods, but both purchase and waste less food overall.
In 2011, WRAP published a report revealing a 1.1 million tonne reduction in household food waste between 2007 and 2010 (1).
In 2012, work to improve and update the model, to further explore the initial findings, was undertaken. These new results from the model suggest that:
  • 40% of the observed reduction in household food waste between 2007 and 2010 is attributable to an increase in food waste reduction activity (such as national and local communications and other consumer engagement, the provision of tools and advice etc.). Around 35% of the reduction is attributable to the impact of higher real food prices while the relative decrease in incomes contributed to a lesser extent to the reduction (ca 5%). 
  • By 2011, the reduction in food purchases implied by the increase in food waste reduction activity had resulted in an annual saving of £1.9 billion for UK households. Consumers chose to spend around half of this saving in ‘trading up’ to higher value foods. Therefore, the research supports the earlier finding that as consumers avoid food waste, many change their purchasing behaviour and buy smaller quantities of higher price food.

Explore the research

The main report presents the full econometric modelling approach used to understand the influences on food waste and food purchases.
A separate paper details qualitative and quantitative analysis to evaluate the impact of WRAP and partner activity over the period of WRAP’s last Business Plan. 

(1) Disclaimer
Subsequent to updating the econometric model, WRAP published new research that revealed a 1.3 million tonne reduction in household food waste between 2007 and 2012 (see Given the timing of the two pieces of research, this report details analysis using the 2010 data only.