You are currently viewing Reverse logistics: how to apply it in food manufacturing

Organizations must actively engage in waste recovery to reduce the environmental impact attributable to waste. This action aids in mitigating climate change, halting the loss of nature, and providing sustenance for more people. In the United States, roughly one-third of all produced or imported food goes to waste. Consequently, U.S. companies need to adopt reverse logistics to achieve the objective of reusing these resources and deriving value from them as raw materials (FAO, 2022; WWF, 2022).

Here are four tips for implementing this in food manufacturing. These are (FAO, 2022; WWF, 2023; Marañon, 2020; Lezama-León et al., 2021):

1. To train the team in reverse logistics activities

To implement it in a business, the first step involves investing in training the team. Employees must understand what it entails and the requirements for putting it into practice. Food loss or waste occurs at various stages of the supply chain, involving numerous actors. Hence, it’s crucial for the work team to comprehend its processes and the execution of each operation.

For example, train employees in QA QC processes, waste management, and merchandise removal and sorting. Furthermore, in recovery, recycling, and management of food that can be reused or require specialized management.


2. Manage transportation in reverse logistics

Managing transportation constitutes a vital component of reverse logistics. Ensuring the practical return of products and packaging to the company stands as a key objective. To achieve this, it becomes imperative to chart out the most efficient distribution and collection routes for the products.

For instance, one can optimize logistics costs by merging delivery and collection routes. Furthermore, it is feasible to transport products that have surpassed their expiration or consumption dates alongside those still suitable for consumption, provided there’s no risk of contamination. When handling the return of refrigerated or frozen products, it’s crucial to uphold the appropriate temperature throughout transportation for food preservation food quality.


3. Apply new technologies to the processes

Implementing it demands the adoption of new technologies. Currently, digital solutions exist for overseeing omnichannel logistics, enabling streamlined and efficient communication during return collection.

For instance, utilizing an application for registering and integrating all logistics inputs and outputs can significantly enhance the efficiency of the returns process. Additionally, it is advisable to utilize tools that track the movement data of goods, such as:

  • Routing systems that decrease the delivery time of returned food.
  • Monitoring technology to control temperature and humidity throughout the supply chain. From food production to pickup and shipment.
  • ERP solutions to more easily determine metrics such as the merchandise with the highest return rate or the return on investment of returned products.

4. Regulatory framework to prevent food loss in reverse logistics

Food companies must implement it and establish additional controls to prevent food loss actively. To achieve this, they should take into account the regulatory framework and laws that promote private sector participation in reducing and preventing food loss.

In the United States, for instance, tax incentives support food donations, facilitated through food banks that distribute food to vulnerable individuals. Ongoing efforts are also standardizing national date labeling to curtail food waste. In conclusion, reverse logistics stands as the cornerstone of waste recovery within organizations. This approach enables the reduction and prevention of food loss and waste in the supply chain. Therefore, it becomes crucial to train the workforce, optimize route traceability, employ new technologies, and consider laws governing waste management. Such measures not only positively impact food safety and the environment but also actively contribute to these goals.

Bibliographic References

  • FAO. (2022). Voluntary Code of Conduct for the Reduction of Food Losses and Food Waste. Rome.
  • World Wildlife Fund (2023). A call to action on U.S. food loss and waste policy.
  • Lezama-León, E., Lezama-León, M., Solís-Galindo, A. and Figueroa-Urrea, H. (2021). Analysis of the Reverse Logistics of Perishable Products in Mexico.
  • Marañon, P. (2020, December 5). Reverse food logistics . . . a way to reduce hunger.
  • WWF. (2022, April 26). How the next Farm Bill can reduce food loss and waste in the United States.