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Guest-imator Tool Takes Guesswork (and Food Waste) Out of Thanksgiving Planning

Image Credit: Charlotte Magazine

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Ad Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Save the Food national public service campaign have launched a digital portion planning calculator designed to reduce the amount of food, money and resources that go to waste around the holiday.

“Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, yet it’s often unintentionally wasteful as well,” said Dana Gunners, senior scientist at NRDC. “Hosts can have the best intentions, but planning a meal for large group is still tricky. This calculator can help cooks prepare enough for turkey-cranberry sandwiches the day after the feast, but avoid a stockpile of past-due leftovers a week later.”

Created by digital transformation agency SapienRazorfish, the Guest-imator is designed to eliminate unnecessary over-purchasing, saving consumers money and preventing food waste before it starts.

The tool allows users to plan how much food to buy and serve for holiday gatherings and other large dinners. To use it, hosts enter the number of guests they expect to have and select the types of dishes they plan to prepare, including mains, sides and desserts. They can also indicate the number of leftover meals desired.

From there, the Guest-imator calculates the amount of each food to prepare, i.e. eight potatoes or a 10-pound turkey, taking into consideration both the number of portions needed and the number of dishes offered and whether the dishes being served are heavy or light. As the host adds or eliminates dishes or guests, the tool updates its calculation.

In 2016, six million turkeys — a value of around $293 million — ended up in the trash. That amount of discarded turkey requires an estimated 100 billion gallons of water — enough to supply New York City for 100 days — and produces an emissions equivalent of driving a car across the country 800,000 times.

Approximately 40 percent of all food in the US goes uneaten annually, at a cost of $218 billion. Consumers are responsible for 43 percent of this waste — more than restaurants, grocery stores or any other single part of the supply chain. Each year, food waste costs the average family of four at least $1,500.

“Consumers want to cut back on food waste, but they aren’t always sure how to do that,” said Peter Wagoner, Associate Creative Director at SapienRazorfish. “That’s why we zeroed in on meal planning, particularly for the upcoming holidays and created the Guest-imator. It uses a proprietary algorithm to make sure you don’t prepare too little or too much. Plus, it incorporates a little-known food prep secret: the more dishes you prepare, the smaller each one needs to be. Because guests usually end up sampling multiple things and therefore have less of each.”

The Save the Food campaign aims to stop food waste at its largest source — consumers. In doing so, Ad Council and NRDC seek to reduce the massive amount of money, water and energy that is wasted when food is thrown out.

“As awareness about food waste continues to grow, ‘Save the Food’ is becoming a go-to resource for consumers looking to make changes and eliminate waste,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of Ad Council. “Our goal with tools like the Guest-imator is to make the guiding principles of food waste reduction accessible to everyone — from the grandmother who regularly cooks for her extended family to the young professional who’s hosting his or her first big dinner.”


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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