Tag: supermarket

Campaign win – Arla to remove ‘Use By’ dates on milk to reduce waste

11th Sep 19 by Christina O'Sullivan

We should be crying over spilled milk and taking tangible steps to reduce food waste in the face of climate catastrophe.

In February, we launched our ‘Milking It’ campaign calling on supermarkets to address their date labelling policies and reduce milk waste. Arla, a massive dairy cooperative who supply supermarket brands such as Cravendale, have committed to scrapping ‘Use By’ date labels on milk and encouraging individuals to use the ‘sniff test’. We are calling on the top four UK supermarkets to do the same.

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Why we should be crying over spilled milk

The Amazon is on fire and a large driver of this is our current dysfunctional food system. Cows are often fed large amounts of soya which leads to deforestation – read more on soya in our recent blog. Globally, the meat and dairy industries exact a huge toll on our global environment and are major drivers of climate change, estimated to account for 15% of total global emissions – more than the entire global transport sector. At an individual level, although milk is not the most wasted food, milk waste represents the highest contribution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions compared to other food as it is so widely consumed and resource-intensive to produce. Wasting less milk has many positive trickle down effects.

Supermarkets hold a massive amount of power in the food supply chain, and by changing their date labelling policies they have an opportunity to make a real difference

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Will the supermarkets Meat Us Halfway on meat?

13th Aug 19 by Phil Holtam, report author

Find out how the supermarkets performed in our 'less and better' meat scorecard.

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report detailing the evidence for major and sweeping changes to our agriculture and land use, including shifts to more sustainable diets in places (like the UK) where meat and dairy consumption is already too high. We published our first response last week, looking at how Feedback thinks policy-makers should be responding to this challenge.

But what about some of the Big Food businesses with the greatest power in our food system? Yes, you guessed it, supermarkets.

Supermarkets, as the main provider of groceries for the majority of UK households, have a vital role to play for this dietary change to happen. So we’ve been looking into the biggest ten UK supermarkets and assessed their efforts at both the corporate and store level to support the public in shifting to sustainable and healthy diets. And we’ve found that, whilst there are signs of progress for some stores, most of them have a long way to go.

What did we base our assessment on?

Our scorecard uses two sets of indicators. The first set looks at publicly available information on corporate policies and commitments around sustainable animal feed, deforestation, and science-based climate change targets and reporting. This would include ensuring the climate impact of supply chains is fully recognised in supermarket operations, and a commitment to promoting consumption of healthy, plant-based foods, with a named champion within the business holding this responsibility. We’ve also used existing publicly available data into our scorecard from organisations such as FAIRR, the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Food Foundation.

The second set of indicators looks at the in-store experience, assessed via ‘mystery shopper’ visits to a small sample of stores. Here we were looking for, among other things, a strong offering of ‘better meat’ (i.e. meat which is RSPCA assured, free-range, or organic), prominent shelf position of meat-free proteins, clear guidance on healthy and sustainable meat consumption, and labels that refrain from mis-leading marketing, such as ‘fake farm’ brands. We also drew on Eating Better’s assessments of the proportion of ready meals, sandwiches and salads which are meat-free.

Using these indicators we looked at the major 10 supermarkets and awarded points based on 24 different criteria regarding their progress in shifting their offerings away from meat, as well as looking at the quality of the produce they do sell.

How did your supermarket do in our scorecard?

















We found that across the high street there is a real difference in the efforts retailers are making to respond to the climatic need for different food on our plates. Coming in at the bottom of our ranking, on a score of only 14%, was Iceland.

Despite recent moves to ban plastics in store, as well as their high-profile work on palm oil, Iceland lost points due to being one of just two retailers with no publicly available corporate policy on sustainable animal feed, and for being the only retailer not to have publicly signed up to the Cerrado Manifesto, which supports a halt to deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado savannah. Despite having some vegan foods on offer, Iceland has the lowest proportion of vegetarian ready meals of any retailer, at just 7% , and their fresh meat offer consists of products meeting only the regulatory minimum, without any provision of ‘better’ meat, such as free range or RSPCA assured. Iceland has a long way to go towards ‘less and better’ meat, but so do fellow low rankers Morrisons, ASDA and Aldi.

Those at the top of the ranking shouldn’t feel complacent though – we’re still not seeing the sort of radical and brave commitments to selling less meat (and more ‘better’ meat) which will be needed for real change.

A recent Eating Better/YouGov poll found increasingly demand for plant-based foods with more people than ever before identifying as vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian. Of course these figures have their geographical and generational nuances, with younger urban-dwellers more likely to avoid meat, but the trend is clear; the UK public is ready for a dietary shift.

It’s time the supermarkets went beyond following the demand and meat us halfway.

By giving customers access to better quality meat and dairy produce, as well as offering meat-alternatives to help people reduce their meat and dairy consumption, they could make a real difference. Ultimately we think any supermarket which is serious about shouldering their responsibility for the impact of the food system on our planet will commit to halving their meat sales by 2030 overall, and stocking a higher proportion of high quality meat, such as year round pasture-fed.

Read the full scorecard.

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Feedback calls on supermarkets to cut food waste

8th Feb 17 by Christina O'Sullivan

We wrote an article for the Guardian on what supermarkets should be doing to reduce food waste. Read below;

As public outrage over food waste grows, almost every British supermarket has responded to consumer pressure and linked up with food redistribution organisations such as FareShare and Foodcycle.

But while good practice is emerging, supermarkets’ work with charities is barely denting the waste problem. Fareshare, for example, estimates it accesses just 2% of supermarkets’ available food surplus.

Sainsbury’s donated nearly 3,000 tonnes of food last year (up from 1,200 tonnes the year before). This sounds impressive but it is only 7% of their surplus. Nine times as much went to anaerobic digestion, encouraged by perverse subsidies that promote turning waste into fuel and fertiliser over actually feeding people.

What’s worse, the food that charities do get hold of can be the food they are least able to use. The overproduction of bread may be the most striking example. Figures from Tesco suggest that [pdf] up to 44% of bread produced in the UK is wasted, and only half of that occurs in homes. This means the likes of supermarket bakeries and distribution depots regularly have far more surplus bread than charities can use.

Surplus figures don’t even touch on the vast quantities of unprocessed, healthy, fresh food currently wasted further up the supply chain on farms.

With almost a million portions of fruits and vegetables rescued by our Gleaning Network last year, we know the quantities are vast. But to get a true picture of the waste we would need the one thing most retailers refuse to provide: full transparency.

In 2013, Tesco released a third-party audited report of food waste throughout its supply chain, but others have failed to follow. While Sainsbury’s has startedreleasing data on its in-store waste, it has declined to do the same for its supply chain. Morrisons, Asda, Waitrose and other retailers are even less transparent.

One of the reasons retailers are reluctant to publish these figures is that they would lay bare the perverse impacts of big supermarkets’ concentrated power.

Supermarkets are in a position of breathtaking asymmetry with their suppliers, from farmers in the UK and around the world, to food processing companies or butchers. These businesses know that unless they provide the exact amounts requested, at the exact time required and often in the exact shape specified, they’ll lose business. So they overproduce, resulting in huge amounts of waste when forecasters change their minds on how many pork pies they think their shopper will buy this month.

This asymmetry is now mirrored in supermarkets’ relationships with the charities that take surplus food off their hands, creating yet another barrier to efficient use of food.

Several of our colleagues who have visited food banks’ warehouses and kitchens have been taken aback by the high proportion of supplies made up by confectionary. Charities do not feel able to turn down food, but they don’t necessarily get the kinds of food they need.

A truly systematic approach to reducing food waste would see retailers avoiding waste in the first place whenever possible. Where they can’t, this food should be available on a virtual marketplace to redistribution charities, so they can make best use of what they most need, both in terms of logistics and the kinds of foods they supply. Several food waste apps including FoodCloud and Plan Zheroes are helping to make this happen.

Only then should waste that isn’t fit for human consumption be passed down the food chain for animal feed, anaerobic digestion or, as a last resort, landfill.

For such a system to work the supermarkets would need open up their data to food waste social entrepreneurs and others, in order to work out where avoidable waste is occurring and how to link up with charities in the ways that work best for them.

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4th Oct 16 by fb_admin

4th October 2016

gpwdjjmv_400x400Feedback’s Campaign and Research Manager Edd Colbert reflects on recent changes in the UK’s food waste landscape.

It’s been a busy few weeks for food waste in the UK, with the publication of The Evening Standard’s investigation into supermarket waste; Sainsbury’s publishing some of its food waste data; a wealth of organisations calling on the UK Government for action on waste; and a new group of companies signing up to the Courtauld Commitment. Yet what really shocked me was the fanfare of news articles celebrating what has been dubbed ‘The UK’s First Food Waste Supermarket’.

This ‘food waste supermarket’ is the latest project of The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP). TRJFP started out as a pay-as-you-feel café serving food that would have gone to waste in Armley, Leeds. I first met Adam Smith, the project’s founder, in 2014 shortly before becoming a co-director of the project. Since leaving the project, it has grown from strength to strength and now represents an international network of anti-food waste projects.

One such project is the brilliant Fuel for Schools program in Leeds, which uses surplus food to feed hundreds of school children breakfast to combat food poverty and malnutrition. The ‘food waste supermarket’ is a warehouse in which food is stored for effective distribution; and in true TRJFP fashion, it has been opened up to be accessed by all to make sure those living in food poverty are not marginalised. Everyone is welcome to do their weekly shop and are encouraged to pay as they feel, whether that is financially or in kind. Yet as Adam told me on the phone recently, “this isn’t a supermarket, this is explicitly anti-supermarket”.

Even if we can call this warehouse a supermarket, doesn’t it seem strange that the UK’s media headlines are celebrating the fact that the UK wastes enough food to fill a supermarket?

What the UK really needs right now is its first Zero Waste Supermarket.

A zero food waste supermarket publicly measures and reports how much food it wastes in its store and distribution centre operations, as well as throughout its supply chain.

A zero food waste supermarket prioritises prevention of waste throughout its operations and supply chain. It commits to reducing food waste on farms and other stages of its supply chain, for example through the relaxation of strict cosmetic specifications that judge food on what it looks like, rather than its taste or nutritional value.

A zero food waste supermarket understands that food waste is a symptom of overproduction. It works to create fair contractual relationships with its suppliers to prevent overproduction as a result of suppliers trying to insure themselves against last minute order cancellations and unpredictable order forecasting.

A zero food waste supermarket recognises that redistribution is a short-term measure to ensure all food that is grown is eaten by people, but that ultimately it is responsible for minimising how much ‘surplus’ food it encourages to be grown, harvested, packaged, transported and sold.

A zero food waste supermarket only sends truly unavoidable food waste to management processes such as anaerobic digestion.

A zero food waste supermarket would present a challenge to all retailers to take greater action to prevent food waste and would be truly worthy of newspaper headlines.

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Tesco changes rules on Kenyan green beans to cut food waste

21st Apr 16 by Feedback Team

Campaigning win as Tesco improves wasteful process of 'top and tailing' green beans

After years of public campaigning and direct challenges to its practices, Tesco has announced changes to its rules on Kenyan green beans. From now on, they will stop forcing their suppliers to “top and tail” their produce. Tesco estimates that this change will save more than 135 tonnes of food waste per year. Feedback had uncovered this wasteful practice through its investigations in Kenya in 2013, the findings of which we outlined in a report that we published in 2015. Since our inception, Feedback has publicly campaigned against cosmetic specifications for produce that outgrade outrageously high percentages of nutritious crops. Tesco was no exception, and we directly challenged them to stop their wasteful “topping and tailing” practice.

In the fight to relax cosmetic standards, green beans have been a particularly potent symbol of these standards’ causal link to food waste. Supermarkets like Tesco mandated that suppliers “top and tail” their produce — the idea being to make sure all green beans were the exact same length. Unfortunately, that’s not the way green beans grow, and topping and tailing led to an estimated 30% of the crop being lost before it even arrived in the aisles of British supermarkets.

In 2014, our public campaigning led Tesco to make a change to this system, trimming only one side of the green beans. This change alone saved one supplier whom we interviewed 1/3 of her harvest. We continued working directly with Kenyan farmers over the next two years. We found that cosmetic specifications were often used by retailers and importers as a front for cancelling orders at the last minute, that over 30% of food was being rejected at farm-level, and that exporters reported nearly 50% of produce is rejected before being exported. Our work in Peru has shown similar shocking levels of supply-chain waste driven by importers and retailers’ buying practices.

After years of publicly campaigning on this issue as well as directly challenging Tesco to make this change, we celebrate Tesco’s recent buying policy change as a victory for Kenyan farmers, British consumers, and the environment. Come this May, we host major Feeding the 5000 events in New York City and Washington D.C., where we will be asking US supermarkets to follow Tesco’s lead on this issue. The goal is for retailers to relax cosmetic standards dramatically and use farms’ whole crop. Tesco says it will begin doing this: If there is a surplus, we will work with suppliers to find an outlet – for example, by connecting our growers with our fresh and frozen suppliers for it to be used in foods such as ready meals,” said Tesco Commercial Director for Fresh Food Matt Simister. This should be the norm across all retailer-supplier relationships.

We want all retailers around the world to make simple changes like this to create a more sustainable food system. At the same time, we continue fighting for more just and less wasteful supply chains worldwide. Green beans are just a start.

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Supermarkets could soon be fined for unfair trading practises

24th Feb 15 by fb_admin

A recent proposal made by the UK government will soon give the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) the power to fine supermarkets up to 1% of their annual turnover for breach of the Groceries Supply Code of Practise.

Feedback welcomes this long-awaited decision that will give the GCA the ability to effectively challenge supermarkets on unethical business practices, such as uncompensated forecast order cancellations. However, having launched an investigation into Tesco this month, prior to her fining powers being granted, the GCA will be unable to fine the supermarket for any breaches of the code. It is of paramount importance that the GCA is given her fining powers prior to further investigations to ensure supermarkets feel the full force of this office’s powers.

The Groceries Code has the potential to be an effective legislative tool to curb systemic food waste in supermarket supply chains. The code directly addresses the issue of order cancellations, a significant cause of farm-level food waste. WRAP estimate that 5% of farm-level waste is caused by supply chain management issues such as order cancellations, although this figure is thought to be underestimated given the hesitance of farmers to speak out of these problems for fear of being de-listed, despite the large financial loss associated with being forced to waste their produce.

Apples saved on a farm from going to waste by The Gleaning Network
Apples saved on a farm from going to waste by The Gleaning Network

However, the GCA currently lacks an essential tool needed to ensure a fair deal for many farmers and other indirect suppliers – namely the remit to adjudicate on issues that arise between indirect suppliers and the supermarkets. At present the GCA is restricted to adjudicating only those issues that arise between retailers and their direct suppliers. Only a small number of farmers directly supply supermarkets.

Forecast order cancellations and last minute order adjustments leave farmers with excessive quantities of food that they can’t sell. Instead the food is left to rot or is ploughed back into the field. This is a global problem that affects farmers across the world and is an issue that Feedback are uncovering through its research and campaigns, as well as through the activity of The Gleaning Network.

Feedback are calling for the remit of the GCA and the code to be reviewed and extended to protect primary producers and other indirect suppliers of the UK’s major grocery retailers.

Feedback is not alone in this demand. The National Farmers Union (NFU) and the House of Commons Environmental Farming and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) amongst other are calling for a review of the operations of the GCA. A review is currently scheduled for 2016 but there is a need for urgent consideration of extending the remit of the GCA to include indirect suppliers, both in the UK and abroad.



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