U.K. food retailers meeting to discuss collaborative ways to eliminate food waste from their operations, with goal of managing stock so supply matches demand
July 3, 2012
– The country's biggest food retailers are getting round the table today (Tuesday) to explore ways of getting even more of the food that isn't sold to redistribution charities.
Retailers' prime objective is managing stock so supply matches demand. They have invested millions of pounds in getting as close as possible to eliminating waste entirely.
All of the businesses attending the meeting are also long-term supporters of organisations, such as FareShare and FoodCycle, who collect what useable excess stock there is and offer it for free to people who need it. However, some of the produce retailers make available is rejected by the food charities because individual quantities are too small or because they don't consider it useful.
British Retail Consortium Director of Food and Sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: "Retailers' prime objective is eliminating food waste from their operations entirely. Currently, only five per cent of overall food waste comes from shops. But retailers are long-standing supporters of food charities. The businesses involved in today's meeting are already ensuring that what useable excess stock there is goes to people who need it.
"As with all of the environmental and community work retailers are involved in, they're always keen to identify ways of doing it better. Separately, retailers are doing huge amounts. The enormous progress on packaging shows collaboration and developing a collective understanding is the way to achieve more. Looking at this issue as an entire sector is another step forward in reducing food waste and supporting the people who live in our neighbourhoods."
Notes to editors
Alliance Boots, Asda, The Co-operative Group, Marks and Spencer, Morrison's, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose are due to attend the meeting, along with representatives from the British Retail Consortium, Institute of Grocery Distribution, Food and Drink Federation, FareShare and FoodCycle.
Avoiding food waste in store
Retailers do all they can to stock goods of all kinds in the right quantities. They use knowledge of their customers' buying habits and long-range weather forecasts to predict what's likely to be popular at different times. It's not an exact science but it helps reduce waste.
If a product isn't selling as well as expected, supermarkets will take steps such as putting it on promotion or reducing the price. Retailers also offer excess stock to charities such as FareShare and FoodCycle for them to distribute.
If food can't be sold or charities aren't interested in making use of it, only then will a retailer discard it. The majority of food waste is either composted or sent to an anaerobic digestion plant, where it biodegrades and can be used to produce energy. A tiny proportion of food waste created by the retail sector ends up in landfill, and efforts to reduce that continue.