21 June 2019, 08:17 AM
  • Food waste is often viewed as the large retailers’ problem. Andy Needham, managing director of Approved Food, believes that a lot of smaller companies think that they are too small to make a difference and only the big names can bring about wholescale changes
“Food waste is an issue for everyone, not just supermarkets”

Food waste is often viewed as the large retailers’ problem. I believe a lot of smaller companies think that they are too small to make a difference and only the big names can bring about wholescale changes.

But, as one extremely large retailer once said, every little helps. And if every smaller retailer or producer made a conscious effort to cut back on waste then the cumulative effect would be impressive.

A number of big-name retailers recently signed up to halve the UK’s food waste bill by 2030, looking to reduce waste from farm to fork as part of the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. The aim is to cut the economic, social and environmental impact of around 10 million tonnes of food wasted each year, at an estimated cost to our economy of £20 billion – the equivalent of £300 per person.

Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Ocado all signed up when the pledge was launched last September, with manufacturers such as Nestle, Coca Cola and Heinz also supporting the initiative.

However, while this initiative aims to target major producers and retailers, there is much that can be done by smaller concerns to reduce what is wasted.
The easy and cheaper option may be to dispose of surplus produce at the manufacturing stage, before it makes it onto a refrigerated lorry. However, this prevents it from being redistributed.

Similarly, if products leave the manufacturer but are then deemed by the retailer to be too close to their best before date, they also become waste.
If food was readily available at this stage, then far more could be redistributed and far less wasted. This applies to all producers and retailers regardless of their turnover or size.

We are calling on both producers and retailers to think again about how they dispose of surplus produce.

If retailers allowed more access to food further up the supply chain, in other words food that has been produced but has not yet been delivered to store, more of this could be redistributed, whether through food banks or through companies like Approved Food that specialise in selling surplus or short-dated stock.

Such food includes, for example, own brand products that have been produced by the manufacturer but are then deemed by the retailer to be too close to their best before date. Alternatively, there may have been a change required to the packaging design. This food also becomes surplus yet currently, only a small number of organisations can currently access these supplies. As a result, large amounts of perfectly edible food are adding to the waste issue.

People believe retailers are working hard to reduce waste by giving leftover produce to charities. But if they opened up the access to products further up the supply chain, this would have a significant impact on food waste overall.

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