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Food wastage amongst retailers is ultimately leaving a bad taste in the mouth

16 June 2014

Addressing issues across the supply chain including farming, production, retail and consumer education are central to supermarkets tackling food wastage, according to Nick Miller, Head of FMCG at Crimson & Co.

A recent report published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme, has identified that the UK is throwing away £1bn worth of food before it reaches consumers fridges, siting damage and flawed appearance as the key factors for wastage. The fallout of this is rightly putting pressure on supermarkets to account for these high figures and as a result, Tesco have announced that it is to publish a report containing how much food it wastes a year.

Miller believes Tesco should be applauded for its efforts and wants to see the others follow suit:

“Food wastage is a big issue and one which deserves greater prominence – other countries within Europe, such as Holland have national schemes in place to address issues of wastage – why doesn’t Britain follow suit?

“The issues surrounding wastage lie within the existing supply chain of these supermarkets – these stem from farming, production and retailing to the home. In order to correct the long-term issues surrounding this retailers need to play a much more active role with greater collaboration and understanding across all the stakeholders.”

Miller continued: “An example of where this collaboration can be seen is within the initial harvesting stage – food which is never harvested because the product is not perceived to be of satisfactory quality, often simply because it doesn’t look right or because demand has changed, resulting in vast volumes of wastage. To address this a solution would be to see a commitment by retailers to purchase the entire harvest. From this the highest grade can be available for sale as whole, the second grade could be available as chopped or diced produce, with the lowest grade for making soups or ready meals – adopting such an approach would provide significant benefits for both retailers and the producers themselves.

“The obvious place in which most wastage occurs is within the home, largely due to food exceeding its use by date. In some cases retailers can have a direct influence over this – Tesco for example has committed to ending BOGOF promotions on bagged salads due to the fact it is a short life product that is highly vulnerable to waste.

“Further evidence of this direct influence from retailers can be seen when it comes to changing mind-sets – there is a perceived notion that for food to be edible it must be blemish-free – this is simply not the case for the majority of consumers. Also the supermarkets themselves need to educate and create greater awareness over the risks of wastage, highlighting the importance of effective storage.

“Technology will also play an increasing part - by having an accurate view of food life and status through the use of ‘smart-tags’ consumers can gain a better understanding of storage monitoring conditions.

“Ultimately, there needs to be a fundamental change to the way we go about addressing the issue of food wastage, and it is one all parties must be accountable for.”

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