Study shows more people ready to eat Halloween Pumpkins

A child becomes a pumpkin monster at halloween

New research from environmental charity Hubbub reveals some gourd news, as more and more people are viewing Halloween pumpkins as food and not just a decoration.

The survey carried out by Censuswide asked 2,000 UK residents about their Halloween habits and reveals that 3 in 5 (59%) of pumpkins bought for carving were eaten last Halloween (2020).  In 2015* only 1 in 3 (31%) were eaten, rising to more than 2 in 5 (46%) in 2019* showing an encouraging trend in the fight against food waste.

However, the survey also shows that more people celebrate Halloween than ever before (up to 56% in 2020 from 50% in 2019), and those households which celebrate carve an average of just over two pumpkins each.

This means 35 million pumpkins are set to be bought this year with 14.5 million set to go to waste1. This is almost as much as the 15 million wasted in 2015 and enough to make a bowl of pumpkin soup for the whole UK population.

The findings come as Hubbub launches its annual Pumpkin Rescue campaign, to help tackle the spooky number of pumpkins set to go to waste this Halloween.

Last Halloween, 33 million pumpkins were bought for carving but nearly 12 million of these were left uneaten2. Encouragingly, awareness of the fact that carving pumpkins can actually be eaten has increased; 53% compared with 42% last year.

The survey also suggests a positive shift in people’s knowledge of food waste and cooking during Covid.  More than 1 in 4 of people (28%) said that since Covid, they have gained better knowledge of cooking, food and how to use leftovers, 1 in 3 (33%) say that they have become more aware of food waste and its impact on the environment.

Since Hubbub started its research into pumpkins back in 2016, the number of people who have tried the seasonal treat has significantly increased, with only 26% of people now saying they have never tried it compared to 47% in 2016.

Cinnamon was voted the most popular accompaniment this year followed by honey and chilli. When asked about their favourite way to eat pumpkin, soup was the firm favourite voted by 37% of the respondents followed by pie (29%) and seeds (26%).

Aoife Allen, Director at Hubbub, said: “It’s fantastic to see that more and more households are eating their pumpkin at Halloween. However, as Halloween continues to grow in popularity, we estimate almost the same number of pumpkins will go to waste as six years ago, so it’s as important as ever that people are inspired to cook up their carvings.

“Around 6.6million tonnes of food is thrown out of UK households each year3 and reducing food waste is one of the most impactful actions we can take to help tackle climate change.

“Pumpkins are a lovely seasonal food that grow locally, and they’re a cheap and healthy way to feed a crowd. We have a number of recipes suggestions available to help get people cooking with this delicious food.”

Michael Dell’armi, pumpkin buyer from Co-op said: “At the Coop we’re committed to prevent food waste in our stores and do what we can to help our customers reduce food waste at home. We’re expecting sales of pumpkins to fly off the shelves again this year so we’re  encouraging our customers to eat their pumpkins and then compost them where possible, to help reduce the impact of Halloween on the environment.”  

And it’s not just eating the inside of the pumpkin that will make a difference. Hubbub is also urging people to compost their carved pumpkins, put them out for the birds or dispose of them in the food waste collection, to prevent used pumpkins heading to the general household bin which will produce harmful greenhouse gases if sent to landfill.

Martin is a journalist and PR executive of Commercial Waste Magazine. He has worked in the commercial waste and recycling industry for over a decade and is dedicated to raising public awareness in the amount of recyclable waste being sent to landfill every year.

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