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Last Update:2023.12.21

Ajinomoto and Earth hacks promote food loss reduction as a global issue

Earth hacks' "Decarbo Score" visualizes the CO2 emission reduction rate of products compared to conventional products. Ajinomoto is working to reduce food loss at home by providing consumers with food loss reduction recipes along with the Decarbo Score. We interviewed Ms. Ayako Awakawa of Ajinomoto and Mr. Sumihito Sekine of Earth hacks about the significance of the company's food loss reduction efforts and future prospects, including the effectiveness of the Decarbo Score.

In an effort to reduce food loss, Ajinomoto provides consumers with "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" recipes to consumers as part of its efforts to reduce food loss through the use of surplus ingredients. The recipes also include a "Decarbo Score " provided by Earth hacks, which allows consumers to enjoy and reduce food loss while realizing their own contribution to the environment. Through this initiative, Ajinomoto aims to make food loss reduction a global issue.

To expand food loss reduction efforts into the home

─ Please tell us about Ajinomoto's efforts to reduce food loss.
Awakawa: Food loss includes throwing away foodstuffs for reasons such as expiration dates, discarding leftover food, and discarding parts of foodstuffs (e.g., peels and stems of vegetables/fruits) without eating them. We have devised ways to make full use of whole food ingredients in the process of manufacturing our products.
For example, the seasoning "HONDASHI®" is mainly made from bonito, but we are reducing food loss by using all the bonito that is not used for "HONDASHI®", such as using the heads and entrails for fish sauce and seasonings, and using the bones for the calcium food "Mainichi Calcium HONDASHI®".
Ayako Awakawa, Seasonings Division, Ajinomoto Co.,Inc.
Ayako Awakawa joined Ajinomoto with a desire to enrich people's lives through the taste and enjoyment of food. After joining the company, she experienced sales, overseas public relations, and on-demand media management. From August 2022, she will be in charge of launching and branding the Ajinomoto Group's food loss reduction brand "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" and was in charge of the launch and branding of the brand.
─ Are such efforts to reduce food loss being communicated to the public?
Awakawa: With the growing awareness of the SDGs in society, we would like to promote the reduction of food loss in households by making the business side's efforts to reduce food loss widely known and by developing recipes that can be practiced at home based on the knowledge we have accumulated so far. "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" brand in August 2022, and began actively disseminating information mainly through our own media, " AJINOMOTO PARK ".
─ What is your focus in reducing food loss?
Awakawa: Although it is not well known, about half of Japan's food loss occurs in the home. On a global scale, the CO2 emitted by food loss is comparable to the amount of CO2 emitted by private car use. In other words, from the perspective of decarbonization, household food loss cannot be neglected, and we believe it is important to encourage consumers who are hesitant to take action to decarbonize their consumption habits to reduce food loss.

From this perspective, our goal is to provide our accumulated cooking techniques, recipes, and ideas to consumers so that they can enjoy delicious meals at home while also reducing food loss.

"Decarbo Score" gives consumers a real sense of environmental contribution

─ ─ "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" recipes, how did you come to display the "Decarbo Score"?
Awakawa: "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" brand, and in the course of considering ways to communicate its advantages to consumers in an easy-to-understand manner, we learned about the Earth hacks initiative, a joint project by Hakuhodo Inc. and Mitsui & Co.,Ltd. The "Decarbo Score" used in the project was a very good indicator that allowed consumers to clearly see the CO2 emissions reductions when the recipes were put into practice in numerical form, and to experience the environmental benefits and "feel a little happy" when they saw the results.

At the time, there was no precedent for calculating CO2 emissions from different recipes, but we thought about it together with Earth hacks based on the calculation criteria, and as a result, our company became the first food manufacturer to adopt the "Decarbo Score".
From the recipe "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" posted on “AJINOMOTO PARK”
───What is the method used to calculate CO2 emission reductions through food loss reduction?
Sekine: When food is disposed of, much of it is incinerated, which emits CO2. Conversely, if surplus food materials and parts that are thrown away without being eaten, such as seed skins and stems of vegetables/fruits, are used as food materials instead of being discarded, the CO2 emissions associated with their disposal will be reduced. In addition, if new food ingredients are purchased, there is also CO2 emitted in the distribution process (so-called supply chain emissions), and the difference is calculated as the CO2 emission reduction rate. What we are taking into account is that CO2 emissions are mainly related to the procurement and disposal of food ingredients.
Sumihito Sekine, President and CEO, Earth hacks, Inc.
Graduated from the Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology. While studying cytology as a student, he joined Hakuhodo, hoping to make a career out of communicating environmental issues such as biodiversity and global warming. After joining Hakuhodo, he worked as a sales representative in charge of branding for various companies, and after serving as the chairman of the central executive committee of the Hakuhodo Employees Union, he was transferred to Mitsui & Co. for three years from 2020.
─ ─ The "Decarbo Score" is unique in that it shows the percentage reduction rather than the amount of CO2 reduction.
Sekine: For many people, "40% reduction in CO2 emissions" is easier to understand than "1 ton reduction in CO2 emissions," and can be used as a basis for choosing goods and services. For example, "80% off sale items" or "20% off sugar in alcoholic beverages. Furthermore, Japan's CO2 emission reduction target is expressed in percentage terms as "46% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 (compared to 2013)," and the same percentage display is easier to understand in terms of measuring how much we have contributed to this target/how much we can do so.
Awakawa: I think the most important thing is that when the impact is known, consumers can feel how much they have contributed to CO2 emission reductions through their own actions. I believe that the introduction of the Decarbo Score will enable consumers to realize that their "own actions" (i.e., products) contribute to CO2 reduction by practicing the recipes, and they will enjoy cooking and eating with a "slightly happy mood" as they practice the recipes.
─ ─ The decarbo score is also displayed in the "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" recipe, but what is the reaction from readers?
Awakawa: Thanks to your support, the number of accesses to the "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" site has been increasing, and the response has been better than expected. We are not only releasing one-way recipes, but users are also sharing their own recipes that lead to food loss reduction, and I think we are creating a good flow of people having fun while reducing food loss.

Taking the obvious for granted and contributing to the environment

─ ─ Although the idea of contributing to the environment seems a bit heavy, it is good to be able to enjoy working on food loss reduction.
Sekine: When people are prepared to say "for the environment" or "to reduce CO2 emissions," they tend to think that they have to endure something instead, or that they do not want to bear the cost. However, as Ajinomoto has long been making efforts to reduce food loss in the manufacturing process of its products, there are many ways in which businesses have contributed to the environment without even being aware of it. Earth hacks believes that it is important to connect these efforts and make people aware of the connection between something ordinary and environmental contribution.
─ Are there many things that we take for granted that contribute to the environment?
Sekine: As an example of a business, some Imabari towels use organic cotton as their raw material. This is one of the efforts to enhance the quality of the products and at the same time to take the environment into consideration. By visualizing this initiative, which had not been publicized before, and communicating its environmental value to consumers through the "Decarbo Score," sales of the towels have nearly doubled.
While it is difficult to convey the value of environmental efforts simply by saying "we are working on environmental issues," clearly stating the CO2 reduction rate through the Decarbo Score is an example of how value was found in an effort that had been taken for granted.
─ I think we can find various ways to contribute to the environment by taking a fresh look at what we have taken for granted in the past.
Sekine: Actually, the amount of CO2 emitted from "food" in Japan is about half that of Europe and the United States. So the Japanese diet itself is environmentally friendly. In addition, as "Mottainai" has become a universal phrase, simply using one item for a long time reduces the amount of CO2 emitted from its disposal, which is an excellent contribution to the environment. In this way, simply living a Japanese lifestyle can be seen as making a certain amount of environmental contribution, and it is important to make consumers aware of such obvious things and encourage them to think about doing more of it.

"TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" techniques and ideas will be passed down with the "Taste of Home" in the future.

─ ─ What can we do to make environmental contributions a matter of course?
Awakawa: From our standpoint, we would like to achieve a state in which food loss reduction is a natural part of our daily lives. Along with the "taste of home" that we have grown accustomed to at home, the "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" techniques and ideas are passed down from generation to generation, and when today's children become cooks in the future, they will be able to practice them naturally, which is ideal. We would like to realize a society in which the reduction of food loss, including from the perspective of dietary education, will eventually become a matter of course.
Sekine: That's nice, "A Taste of Home". Add to this the techniques and ideas of the "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" techniques and ideas, and the environmental value of no food loss is added. From what you have just said, I could imagine a future where each "Taste of Home" is passed on in such a progressive manner, and food loss is eliminated in the future.
Awakawa: The Ajinomoto Group's CO2 emission reduction target is a 50% reduction from the receipt of raw materials to delivery by 2025 and a 50% reduction over the entire product life cycle by 2050 (compared to 2018). In order to reduce emissions over the entire product life cycle, it is essential to reduce food loss at home. We support this by focusing on the "TOO GOOD TO WASTE™" recipes to support this, and in turn, we will work harder than ever to make food loss reduction a natural part of our daily lives.
─ ─ Thank you very much for your time today.
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