CEO of $18 billion nutrition company advocates for food price hikes

Every day, Jeremiah Borrego, founder of Olas Coffee in Brooklyn, NY and a 15-year food service worker, tries to give away unsold oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, cheddar buns and coffee cakes to friends, shelters and restaurant colleagues.

Even so, he ends up grabbing about 15% of the food at the edge every day.

“It would be nice if there was infrastructure to address this,” he says in an interview with the fortune. “I try to keep it at home as much as possible, and then it just counts as a loss.”

He is not doing anything abnormal. In fact, the amount of packaged baked goods from Borrego rots below the global average for food waste. About 20% of all food produced worldwide, about 930 million tons, is wasted. Meanwhile, the United Nations estimates that 828 million people, approximately 10% of the world’s population, suffer from hunger and food insecurity. This inefficiency is staggering and, in the context of climate crises fueled by food production, catastrophic. While public and private activist groups are taking small-scale bites at the problems, no one is doing it at scale.

“Our food systems are broken in many ways,” said Geraldine Matchett, co-chief executive of Royal DSM, an $18.7 billion market-cap chemical nutrients company, during the fortuneThursday’s Global Sustainability Forum. “No other industry would accept a third of what it produces being destroyed.”

Some experts, including Matchett, argue that food costs should be higher in developed countries. “If you look at the statistics on food waste, whether it’s in restaurants, institutions or households, it’s a controversial statement: but food is too cheap,” Matchett said. “People buy, they don’t use everything they buy, they buy in anticipation of launch.” Yes, it’s controversial considering that inflated grocery bills are changing what people eat, who they vote for and how they go about their day.

Matchett’s Royal DSM produces chemical compounds for common foods such as bread, beer and dairy alternatives that provide comparable nutrients to traditional versions using more sustainable processes, the company says. The nearly $20 billion market capitalization of the 21,000-person publicly traded company is down 48% from its 2021 valuation, which it attributes to global economic crises. It’s worth noting that Matchett is the highest-paid executive at the Heerlen, Netherlands-based company, earning $2.2 million a year.

Meanwhile, in the public sector, the Biden Administration and the United Nations are quite focused on sustainable agriculture. Agriculture is currently responsible for about 11% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The Biden Administration committed $22 billion to regenerative agriculture, while the UN works to implement climate-smart agricultural practices worldwide.

“This was a moment where I think we will look back in history and say where we turned to a more positive outcome,” said Ertharin Cousin, CEO of Food Systems for the Future, during the the fortune virtual summit after leaving the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, where the executive branch announced it would work with business, academic and health organizations to deploy $8 billion aimed at addressing hunger and food-related diseases. .

Borrego hopes governments can make a meaningful change so he can rely on a better system that personally distributes his unsold food and coffee grounds when he closes his sunny cafe. “It seems like a losing battle,” he says.

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