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Are you being served? Managing waist and waste via serving size, individual unit size and self-serving

15 March 2022
Amber Werkman
Amber Werkman

Is it possible to reduce food waste and the amount of food consumers eat while at the same time keeping consumers satisfied? Amber Werkman a.o. studied this and came up with a solution. In line with the tendency “it is often easier to change one’s environment than to change one’s mind”, their research offers opportunities for consumers as well as organizations to structure food environments so that one can eat well while wasting less.

Food waste and overconsumption

Many societies currently face two prominent challenges regarding food consumption: food waste and overconsumption. One-third of all edible food destined for human consumption is lost or wasted each year within the food supply chain. Consumers are responsible for up to 65% of the total amount of food waste and are therewith the largest waste contributors.

Overconsumption is a fundamental cause of obesity, which has become a principal health concern in communities across the world. Worldwide, obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

example unit size
example unit size


Werkman explains: “We sought for a way of reducing food consumption and food waste without lessening consumer satisfaction. From previous research, we already know that people consume less when a serving of food is presented in smaller versus larger units. With unit size, we mean the size of the units into which a given amount of food is divided. For example, two pizzas may be equal in serving size but can differ in unit sizes (eight slices versus three slices). However, when consumers eat less of their serving (because of the smaller units), food waste of that same serving will increase.

We wanted to look at what would happen if consumers are allowed to serve themselves their preferred amount of food. Our findings demonstrate that self-serving smaller versus larger units of food reduces the amount of food consumers serve themselves, lessens food consumption, and minimizes food waste while maintaining consumer satisfaction.

For example, restaurants can facilitate self-serving smaller units by offering shared dishes from which consumers can take a preferred amount of food.”

Pay more for smaller servings

Werkman would like to continue this line of research. “Moving forward, I would like to understand how these concepts affect consumers’ purchasing behavior. Are consumers willing to pay more for food products that are packaged in smaller servings and/or units? We presume that these packages can increase consumers’ self-control with regard to food consumption and food waste.

For more information, please contact Amber Werkman

You can read the research article on

Last modified:16 March 2022 4.05 p.m.
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