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Tesco Reveals Food Waste Figures, Plus Action Steps on How to Tackle It in Store and at Home

Today, UK grocery retailer Tesco unveiled food waste figures for its operations and supply chain, alongside figures that show 68 percent of bagged salad in particular is wasted and that 35 percent of this waste occurs in the home.

As a first step in reducing this waste, Tesco announced it will end multi-buys on large bags of salad and is developing mix-and-match promotions for smaller bags in a bid to help customers reduce the amount they are wasting at home.

Bagged salad is just one of the 25 best-selling grocery products that Tesco has tracked from farm to fork to gain a detailed understanding of where food waste occurs. This is part of the grocer’s commitment to lead in tackling food waste and to work with suppliers and customers to address this.

Matt Simister, Tesco Commercial Director of Group Food, said: “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. 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.

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“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.”

The figures also revealed:

  • 40 percent of apples are wasted, with just over a quarter of that waste occurring in the home. Tesco is involved in 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.
  • Just under half of bakery items are wasted. Tesco has changed how bakeries are run in over 600 stores to minimize waste and is sharing tips with customers about how to use leftover bread.
  • A quarter of grapes are wasted between the vine and the fruit bowl, with the majority of that waste happening in the home. Tesco is working with producers to trial new varieties of grapes that have a longer life. It is also working directly with suppliers to shorten the time it takes food to get from the field to the store.
  • A fifth of all bananas are wasted and one in ten bananas bought by customers end up being thrown away. Tesco has introduced a new control system to ensure bananas last longer during transport and ‘Love Banana’ training for colleagues in store to show customers how to make them last longer.

Richard Swannell, Director of Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) said: “We welcome Tesco’s approach to tackling food waste across their whole supply chain, and by identifying the hot spots, they 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 entire UK operations. The data reveals that in the first six months of this year, 28,500 tons of food waste were generated in stores and distribution centers. Tesco is using the data to make changes to its own processes and cut food waste. ‘Display until’ dates are being removed from fresh fruit and vegetables, smaller cases are being used in store and 600 bakeries in larger stores have been rearranged to reduce the amount of bread on display, leading to better stock control and less waste.

In an address to the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen, Philip Clarke earlier today gave an update on the progress made to tackle food waste six months after Tesco announced it would be one of its three “Big Ambitions.” The three ambitions are areas in which Tesco is committed to using its scale for good: creating opportunities for young people, encouraging customers and colleagues to live healthier lives and leading in reducing food waste globally.

“We are the world’s third-largest retailer, so clearly we have a responsibility to minimize the food wasted in our stores,” Clarke said. “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. 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.”

Earlier this month, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), an organization dedicated to eliminating waste in the UK, released new research that revealed UK households waste £6.9 billion ($11 billion) worth of food and drink, or 7 percent of overall sales, each year.

Last fall, fellow grocery chain Waitrose announced it had achieved zero food waste to landfill by sending all food that is unfit for consumption for conversion into biogas through anaerobic digestion. Initiatives such as this, along with recent campaigns such as ‘Fresher for Longer’ and innovative startups such as Rubies in the Rubble, are helping to put a dent in the nation’s food waste problem. But Clarke is right in that it is a shared responsibility and will take the cooperation and engagement of all stakeholders to solve – not just in the UK but worldwide.


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