Tag: supermarkets

Campaign win – standardised date labels!

16th Feb 17 by Christina O'Sullivan

In 2016 we brought our flagship campaign Feeding the 5000 to America, catalyzing the US food waste movement and sparking a desire to change the broken food system. Our number one ask at our events in the USA was immediate industry-led date label standardisation. This week we had a massive campaign win! Two major trade associations; The Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufactures Association, have released guidance on standardised date labeling! This is BIG and shows that pressure from the food waste movement has made the food industry step up to the plate and address this issue.

The guidance aims to remove the long list of confusing date labels used by retailers and replace it with just two standard phrases ‘Best if used by’ and ‘Use by’. A simple common sense solution to the date label mess that confuses consumers into wasting food – experts estimate that this confusion is responsible for 20% of avoidable household food waste.

This is a critical step in the battle to reduce food waste – all that is needed now is a push by the big US supermarkets – Walmart, Publix, Safeway, Kroger, and Costco to roll out this guidance themselves. We need to keep the pressure up to make sure they do!

Thank you to everyone who signed and shared our petition – our voice is being listened to! A massive shout out to the NRDC and Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic for their vital work on this area.

It is so exciting to be part of the growing food waste movement in America, what a great start to 2017 and there is so much more to come!

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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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Tell American supermarkets to stop using confusing date labels that cause food waste

20th Jul 16 by fb_admin

In building our Feeding the 5000 campaign in the US, we developed a four-course menu of actions to take #FoodWaste #OffTheMenu. Our first course in this pledge is for simple date labels that don’t confuse people into throwing away food unnecessarily. On Monday July 18, we launched a petition to make this happen in the US, as part of Huffington Post’s #Reclaim campaign.

The one missing ingredient is a resounding public voice creating a mandate for this common-sense reform.

The US has seen a lot of noise on date label reform lately. See this article in the Economist, this video by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and this article about our petition in Huffington Post. In addition to this increased awareness, concrete action is in the works on various fronts:

– Walmart has asked its private brand suppliers to adopt a standardized date label for all foods that do not require date labels for safety reasons.

– There are moves to pass federal legislation on this bipartisan issue of standardizing date labels to clear up the confusion

– Behind the scenes, the two key industry groups on this issue – the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute – have organized a working group with experts from manufacturing and retail companies to develop a voluntary industry standard for date labels.

We’re excited by all this noise and action. The one missing ingredient is a resounding public voice creating a mandate for this common-sense reform. Our hope is that this petition helps create this public mandate.

Help us promote the petition by tweeting

We’ve put together some sample tweets:

Supermarkets’ confusing date labels cause #FoodWaste. Take it #OffTheMenu with simpler #DateLabels change.org/datelabels

Sell by, best before, use by, consume by — no one agrees what these phrases mean. Reduce #FoodWaste, confusion change.org/datelabels

Support @Feedbackorg #reclaim petition calling for simpler #DateLabels to reduce #FoodWaste change.org/datelabels

Please also tweet @ the supermarkets themselves, especially if you are their customer:

What is the weirdest, silliest date labels that you can find?

Seen an especially weird, silly, or downright comical date label? Please email it to us or hit us up on instagram or Twitter.

But most importantly, please share and sign the petition

Petition sign now

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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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Tesco to donate edible back of store surplus to charity

4th Jun 15 by fb_admin

Hot off the heels of the recent legislation in France obliging French supermarkets to donate unsold edible surplus to charities, Tesco’s announcement is a response to the public demand in the UK and globally to stop the unacceptable practice of throwing away edible food. The clear benefit of schemes like the one launched today by FareShare and FoodCloud is that it removes the fig leaf of complicated logistics and traceability issues that supermarkets typically use as an excuse to avoid donating surplus food to charities.

Whilst this scheme is a good step towards reducing the waste of edible food in stores, it is further up the supermarket supply chains where most food waste happens.

Tesco and other UK retailers have themselves claimed that only 1-2% of the UK’s food waste occurs in their own stores (equating to over 55,000 tonnes of food in the case of Tesco). It is indeed on farms and pack-houses across the country and abroad however, where millions of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables are being wasted as a result of supermarket practices.

Strict cosmetic standards imposed by supermarkets lead to perfectly edible fruit and vegetables being wasted on a huge scale despite increasing evidence that consumers are willing to buy wonky fruit and vegetables. Last minute changes or cancellations in supermarket orders mean that fresh food that could be eaten by people is unnecessarily wasted, even in countries like Kenya where millions go hungry. Feedback’s recent investigations in the export supply chains of UK and European supermarkets have revealed that farmers in Kenya and Guatemala are forced to waste up to 50% of their crop because of retail policies and bear the entire cost of that waste.

Tonnes of sugar snap peas and mangetout rejected because of cosmetic specifications.
Tonnes of sugar snap peas and mange tout rejected in Guatemala because of cosmetic specifications dictated by European retailers.

The single biggest thing that Tesco and other UK retailers can do to eliminate their food waste is to focus their efforts in preventing food waste from happening in the first place not just in their own stores but most importantly by taking responsibility for the waste they cause throughout their supply chains.

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