Is it just too convenient to waste food?


Credit where credit is due, supermarkets and manufacturers have begun working together to tackle the huge issue of food waste. UK households alone binned £13bn worth of food in 2015, a big part of that is on us as consumers, but supermarkets play their part too. Positive steps are in place to limit food waste in the supply chain – our client Morrisons was the first UK supermarket to donate all unsold food to local community groups – and with industry leading title The Grocer having launched its ‘Waste Not Want Not’ campaign with tremendous support from big names such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Unilever, food waste is a hot topic.

I joined The Grocer’s recent webinar on food waste and it was enlightening to hear just a few examples of the steps supermarkets have put in place to reduce wastage. For example, Tesco uses potatoes that don’t meet in-store specifications within its ready meals or side dishes; and worked closely with its strawberry supplier last year to prepare for the crop ripening early, selling larger pack formats as a result. The retailer has also just announced it has launched a food waste hotline for suppliers to help pinpoint waste hotspots, and work together to tackle them – there is a lot of great work going on behind the scenes.

Sometimes I waste food, I’m sure most households do; it is not just a handful of families throwing away £13bn worth. I do feel guilty about throwing away food. I try and use leftovers, exercise portion control and plan meals, but it’s not always practical.  If I feel guilty about it, other people must do too – so why is it still happening? Is it just too convenient to waste food?

We do Tesco click and collect, it’s free, it’s convenient and if Tesco doesn’t have the product or format you ordered, it will offer a substitute at no additional cost. However, I wonder whether the convenience is part of the problem. For example, this weekend I ordered a 600g pack of diced beef, instead we were offered 2x400g packs for the same price. The man at the collection point also made us aware that the fish and duck we’d ordered had a shorter shelf life than they’d have liked – the mince did too, we noted when we got home and unpacked. Now, you can give items back; but then we’re a meal short. So we accept because it’s the most convenient option. Has it been made easy for me to potentially throw away a pack of meat this week? Let alone the components that would go with it? And what about that extra 200g of diced beef, what happens to that?

I have had to be a little more organised and it won’t go to waste, I promise. Tesco and other supermarkets are working hard behind the scenes, but is there more to be done when it comes to dotting i’s and crossing t’s? Should additional quantities really be offered when a customer doesn’t require it? Should retailers be more responsible when it comes to offering home delivery or click and collect customers produce with a suitable shelf life? Sell by dates are also under scrutiny at the moment, do products like milk or vegetables need such strict use by or best before dates?

I commend the efforts of supermarkets and manufacturers on tackling food waste. But we’re still a long way off consumers fully understanding the impact of their actions and suffering a little inconvenience for the bigger picture. In January this year, Wrap revealed that the average household wasted £470 worth of food each year, which was edible before it went in the bin. The latest figures also show that the food industry has failed to meet a commitment to cut household food waste by 5% between 2012 and 2015. Supermarkets are perfectly placed to lead by example and I look forward to more positive steps in the right direction.

Vicki Baker
Senior Account Manager

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