Finding solutions to reduce food waste in Brazil
September 2, 2021

At a global level, 1 300 billion tons of food are wasted globally each year, one third of all food produced for human consumption. Brazil by itself is responsible for ~23.6 million tons of food per year, generating a loss of more than R$ 3 trillions annually according to a research study by Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation). The food that has not been consumed represents a great waste of resources whether it is labor, land, water, soil and seeds. This, in turn, means an increase of greenhouse gas emissions.

At Carrefour, we think that is our responsibility to act against food waste. Thus, we share the objective of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) to reduce by 50% our food waste by 2025. Every country, BU, store, employee is part of this fight. In this article, you will read about how Carrefour Brazil worked hand in hand with CyberCook, a recipe website, and managed to put in place a digital solution to reduce food waste at a consumer level.

Brazilian cooking habits

For the past few months, we have witnessed how health and economy (house savings) can be linked to one another. Indeed, with the Coronavirus we saw that families were home cooking way more and health and grocery spendings were at the center of their priorities, alongside with other mental care activities. 

Knowing that, some of Brazilians’ cooking habits also changed. For example, eating fish was not very common in Brazilian households, but since it is a great source of nutrients and it is easily found in Brazil’s rivers and oceans, fish became more and more popular. In the same way, flexitarian diets also grew and ingredients like cauliflower, zucchini and chickpea were particularly famous. The search volume for these ingredients increased heavily, resulting in good visibility to simple recipes such as this braised zucchini or also to more sophisticated ones such as chickpea burgers.

Besides the consumption itself, the interest of Brazilians for both health and nutrition topics is also growing and about 20% of the population says that they buy food according to nutrition stats or nutrition professionals’ indications (CyberCook index, March 2021). However, Brazilian households suffered tremendously from the Covid-19, both in terms of casualties but also economically with rising unemployment and inflation, business failures and troubles to get food on the table for a part of the population. That is why it is important to Brazilians but also companies to fight against food waste. 

There are two main measures that can be significant in combating waste: 

  • Buying the right amount of the right products 
  • Freezing the leftover food. 

According to information collected in the “The New Map of Brazilian Cuisine” study, which analyzed the behavior of users of the CyberCook recipe platform in March 2021, more families are adhering to these two actions since the coronavirus pandemic. Let me share with you some numbers: 

  • Today, 58% of households in Brazil only buy food that they will use at 100%, meaning that almost half of the population buys food that goes to waste.
  • 31% of Brazilian households freeze leftover foods (vs 28% before the Covid-19 lockdown). 

These numbers are not yet a majority, but it is a constantly growing trend. By adopting a daily cooking habit, people participate in all stages of preparation and tend to plan their meals better and optimize the use of ingredients. For instance, 81% of Brazilian households plan their meals in advance vs 78% before the Covid-19.

So, what is CyberCook? 

CyberCook, acquired by Carrefour Brazil in 2018 as an accelerator of our digital strategy, is a technological platform -website & app- where consumers can find recipes ranging from starters, main dishes to desserts. CyberCook partners up with brands such as Carrefour, Vapza or Dr Oetker, for which they develop content. In July 2021, we had a record audience of 4.7 million users for the month, which is even higher than the April 2020 peak (4.6 million) when people started looking for recipes as they were in lockdown and were cooking more than usual. Still in July 2021, we had almost 8 million page views on the site with about 80% of the traffic coming organically and 92% of the hits are from mobile devices

Let’s take a closer look at Cybercook and take the example of the Bolinhos de Folhas e Talos recipe (spinach balls), in partnership with Carrefour. On the recipe page, you will find the list of ingredients as well as the possibility to buy all the ingredients directly on Carrefour Brazil’s e-commerce site:

For each recipe, you also have the cost per serving: 

We have had great feedback from Cybercook users through our quarterly NPS polls: 

I like the site because it has many simple, everyday recipes that are easy to make and very tasty. The site is also very easy to navigate.”

I’ve been following CyberCook for about 20 years, I really like the organization of the site, the quantity and quality of the recipes.”

Besides our website’s UX, it is interesting to point out that CyberCook uses its own algorithm to point out the cost of each recipe and meal. 

Thus, thanks to both the algorithm and the KPIs we closely monitor, we managed to build a robust database to better spot and understand the main trends in eating behavior of households

We analyzed these new trends and found a fantastic opportunity. We realized that consumers are a great agent of change, enabling us to propose food transition oriented solutions. Thus, our aim was to find a solution that would change our consumers’ eating and purchasing habits. 

A new way to reuse food

The Act for Food and Desperdício Zero Movement initiatives supported by Carrefour Brazil aim to promote an increasingly healthy diet in a socially responsible way. 
Through the Act for Food program, Carrefour is helping its customers and employees eat better – wherever they are – at affordable prices. As for Desperdício Zero, it raises consumer awareness about the topic through exclusive channels: Carrefour Brazil’s sustainability portal as well as in stores. We work hard to help our customers make the best decisions regarding the food they are going to buy.

In line with these purposes, CyberCook has developed a special feature: an “Enjoy the leftover” button. The button is available in all recipes, and by clicking on it, it is possible to select the leftover food ingredients in your pantry and CyberCook will suggest new preparation options for these ingredients.

Setting up a quarterly index: the Thriftometer

Thanks to the data obtained on CyberCook with “Enjoy the leftover”, we started to release the Thriftometer, a couple of months back. The Thriftometer is a quarterly index, in which we highlight the potential savings for Brazilian homes. It is estimated that from December 2019 to June 2021, these savings could reach almost R$ 5 millions.

In the index, we also analyzed the most used ingredients which are, with no surprise: sugar, eggs, wheat flour, milk and onion, reflecting what is often present in people’s pantries and in the most popular recipes on CyberCook. Soy sauce, ricotta and the “small bananas” were the foods with less searches. Another interesting KPI we would like to share is that in 2021 alone, more than 52,000 ingredients were sought through this feature. 

We have a very strong promise here at CyberCook. We use technology as an effective part of the digital transformation of households’ decisions and how they can prevent food waste as much as possible. And this converges with Carrefour Group’s global food transition ambition. Creating the Thriftometer Index is showing people how much it impacts their lives, including financially. 

We are glad, both at Carrefour Brazil and at CyberCook, to be part of the solution. We try our best to propose new solutions to reduce food waste and enable families to consume in a more responsible way. And, every day, we are thinking about new features to develop – there is still a lot to do to eradicate food waste!

Check our other articles related to sustainability!

About the Author

Director of Digital Business @ Carrefour Brazil Alexandre is the CEO of CyberCook and is a serial entrepreneur since 1997. He is a speaker and writes about food, innovation and entrepreneurship!

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