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Tesco first retailer to publish food waste figures

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments
Supermarket giant Tesco has become the first UK retailer to publish its own total food-waste figures, revealing that it generated almost 30,000 tonnes of food waste in the first six months of 2013.

A fifth of all bananas are wasted and one in 10 bananas bought by customers end up in the bin.
A fifth of all bananas are wasted and one in 10 bananas bought by customers end up in the bin.

The company has been tracking 25 of its bestselling food products to understand levels of waste and where it occurs, between farm and fork. It found that 21% of food waste was fruit and vegetables and 41% of it was bakery items.

Using its own data and industry-wide figures, the business claims that across the UK food industry as a whole, 68% of salad sold in bags was wasted, with 35% of it thrown out by customers.

The analysis also found that:

  • 40% of apples are wasted, with just over a quarter of that waste occurring in the home. Just under half of bakery items are wasted.
  • A quarter of grapes are wasted between the vine and the fruit bowl, with the majority of that waste happening in the home.
  • A fifth of all bananas are wasted and one in 10 bananas bought by customers end up in the bin.

Tesco has now promised to take action by scrapping multi-buy promotions on large bags of salad and developing a ‘mix-and-match’ promotion for smaller bags in a bid to help customers reduce the amount they are wasting at home.

It is also carrying out trials with growers to reduce pests and disease, as well as giving customers simple tips on how to store apples to help them last longer.

To eliminate bakery waste, Tesco has changed how its bakeries are run in more than 600 stores to minimize waste. And it is working with producers to trial new varieties of grapes that have a longer life.

There is also a new state-of-the-art temperature-control system being used to make sure bananas last longer in transportation.

“We’ve all got a responsibility to tackle food waste and there is no quick-fix single solution. Little changes can make a big difference, like storing fruit and veg in the right way,” said Matt Simister, Tesco’s commercial director of group food. “Families are wasting an estimated £700 a year and we want to help them keep that money in their pockets, rather than throwing it in the bin.

“We’re playing our part too and making changes to our processes and in store. Ending multi-buy promotions on large packs of bagged salads is one way we can help, but this is just the start and we’ll be reviewing what else we can do. We’re working with our suppliers to try to cut waste at all stages of the journey from farm to fork.”

Richard Swannell, director of WRAP, the government agency that tracks household food wastegage welcomed Tesco’s efforts. “By identifying the hot spots, Tesco can tackle these areas effectively. Food waste is a global issue and collaborative action is essential if we are to successfully reduce food waste and reap the financial and environmental benefits of doing so.”

Tesco is the first major UK retailer to reveal the levels of food waste across its UK operations. The data reveals that in the first six months of this year, 28,500 tonnes of food waste were generated in stores and distribution centers. The last figures published by WRAP in 2011 estimated that 15 million tonnes of food waste is generated every year in the UK.

Speaking at this week’s Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke announced that food waste would be one of its three ‘Big Ambitions’ – areas in which Tesco is committed to using its scale for good. “We are the world’s third largest retailer, so clearly we have a responsibility to minimize the food wasted in our stores. However, we sit at the heart of the value chain and this gives us a crucial vantage point and a shared responsibility to act far beyond the doors of our stores.”

“We’re using this insight to drive innovation. We’re tackling this [food waste] by focusing on 25 of the most frequently purchased food items bought by our customers. We know small reductions in food waste will rapidly make a big difference in reducing overall waste levels. Over the last six months, my team of experts have put together food waste footprints from the farmer’s field to the customer’s bin. We’ve worked with a range of suppliers and experts across the globe, including WRAP. The output is really simple, but it gives great steer on where to act.”

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