Consumers are directly and indirectly responsible for a significant fraction of food waste which, for a large part, could be avoided if they were willing to accept food that is suboptimal, i.e., food that deviates in sensory characteristics (odd shape, discoloration), or that has a best-before date which is approaching or has passed, but that is still perfectly fine to eat. The choice to accept or discard suboptimal food is taken either before or after purchase (hence, in the retail store or in the household). The aim of the European research project COSUS (Consumers in a sustainable food supply chain) was to increase consumer acceptance of suboptimal food, before and after purchase, by implementing targeted strategies that are based on consumer insights, and that are feasible for and acceptable by the food sector. To reach this aim, different methodological approaches were applied to analyze this issue, to experiment with different aspects, and to test the resulting interventions. Each of these approaches was undertaken by competent consortium partners from Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands. The project finally provides validated strategies to promote the distribution and consumption of suboptimal foods, thereby improving resource efficiency in the food chain and contributing to a more sustainable food supply.
Keywords: choice behavior; consumer perception; food waste; suboptimal food.