Tesco says 68 percent of its bagged salad ends up in the trash along with 40 percent of apples and almost half of bakery items. These foods make up a piece of the 28,500 metric tons of food waste the UK grocer generated in stores and distribution centers in the first six months of the year.
In publishing its own total food waste figures today, Tesco becomes the first major UK retailer to do so. The supermarket chain tracked 25 of its bestselling grocery products from farm to fork to better understand where food waste occurs as part of its commitment to reduce waste and work with suppliers and customers to address this.
The last figures published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in 2011 estimated that the UK generates 15 million metric tons of food waste per year.
Tesco says it is using the data to make changes to its own processes and improve its waste management. For example, it is removing “display until” dates from fresh fruit and vegetables and using smaller cases in store.
Of the 68 percent of bagged salad that is wasted, 35 percent occurs at customers’ homes, Tesco says. To reduce this at-home waste, the retailer says it will end multi-buys on large bags of salad — which encourage customers to buy more than they will eat — and is developing mix-and-match promotions for smaller bags.
About one-quarter of the 40 percent of apples wasted also occurs in the home. Tesco says it 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.
To minimize bakery food waste, Tesco says it has changed how bakeries are run in more than 600 stores 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 says it 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 10 bananas bought by customers end up in the trash. Tesco has introduced a new temperature control system to ensure bananas last longer in transportation and “Love Banana” training for colleagues in stores to show customers how to make them last longer.
Matt Simister, Tesco commercial director of group food, says at-home food waste costs customers about £700 ($1,130) a year.
Forty-five UK retailers, manufacturers and brands including Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Unilever, AB InBev and Nestlé committed to reducing food and drink waste by 1.1 million metric tons by 2015 in the third phase of the Courtauld Commitment, launched in May. WRAP oversees the voluntary pledge to cut packaging, food and beverage waste.
US food producers and retailers should make “sell by” dates on labels invisible to consumers and take other steps to prevent consumers and businesses from needlessly trashing billions of pounds of food every year, according to last month’s report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic.
A UN Food and Agriculture Organization report published in September said if the $750 billion global food waste problem is to be tackled, food industry businesses need to improve supply-chain communication and develop better food harvest, storage and transportation processes.