NZ households throw away $1259 of food yearly - survey

Kiwis are wasting less food today than in 2019, but the value of what’s being thrown away has grown to about $1259 a household every year, according to new research. 

Waste food (file picture). Source:

A survey of 1500 people in April commissioned by Rabobank and food rescue charity KiwiHarvest found the estimated value of food waste per household was $138 less per year in 2019. The total value of food being disposed around New Zealand also went from $2 billion in 2019 to $2.4 billion a year today.

The research said the increase is because of higher food prices, households spending more on food, and a greater number of households. 

The survey found households estimated they wasted 8.6 per cent of their weekly food spend, down from 10.2 per cent in 2019. 

Fruit and vegetables, which accounted for about two-thirds of all waste, were the most frequently-wasted food items. This was followed by bread, which made up about a quarter, then meat at six per cent. Half of those surveyed said they’d thrown away unopened food in the past 12 months. 

Those surveyed were also more likely to use worm farms or composting, eat leftovers, freeze uneaten food and eat food past the best before date than in 2019. 

Rabobank’s head of sustainable business development Blake Holgate said Kiwis mostly threw food away when it went off before they could finish it. Those surveyed also said food going off before their use by date, or food not tasting as good as expected, as other reasons for throwing away food. 

Holgate said Kiwis were most concerned about wasting money when it came to throwing away food. 

“This was identified as a key factor by more than three quarters of respondents. Next-most-frequently cited was ‘feelings of guilt that there are people around New Zealand going without’ at 37 per cent, while a further 30 per cent cited guilt about ‘people starving around the world’,” he said.

Holgate said the survey also identified “significant differences” in the attitude towards food waste across age demographics. 

“Older Kiwis were found to be much more likely than younger generations to be practising household food behaviours that reduce food waste,” he said.

“And, as you’d expect, this translates through to older generations having a lower percentage of their household food spend wasted.”

He said research found Baby Boomers threw away five per cent of their household spend on food, and Gen X about six per cent. 

“Then comes a sizeable jump to Gen Y at 12 per cent with Gen Z estimating they waste the largest proportion of food spend at 16 per cent.”

This meant improving younger Kiwis’ knowledge of food waste was key, he said. 

“The survey found younger New Zealanders view climate change and the sustainability of natural resources as key long-term concerns – with both Gen Y and Z ranking these as their second and third biggest concerns over the next 10 years.

“And this creates a real opportunity to drive positive change within these groups by highlighting the connection between reducing food waste and these issues.”