Tag: tesco

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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Evening Standard Publishes Food Waste Investigation

19th Sep 16 by fb_admin


Supermarkets are under pressure to accelerate action to prevent good food going to waste as the Evening Standard launches a major investigation into food waste this week.

Sainsbury’s is the second British supermarket to publish data on the amount of food it wastes in its stores, reporting to waste 35,832 tonnes per year. Last year Tesco published its in-store data after years of campaigning pressure from Feedback, and recently CEO David Lewis called on other retailers to follow their lead.

Feedback expose food waste in supermarket bins with the Evening Standard.
Feedback expose food waste in supermarket bins with the Evening Standard.

Feedback are pleased to see that Sainsbury’s has published its food waste data for the first time today but there’s still much work to be done. Firstly, Sainsbury’s have only published data on the amount of food waste generated in their stores. Whilst this is an important first step for retailers to manage and reduce their food waste, it does not include the much more significant amount of food waste generated in the retailer’s supply chain caused by cosmetic specifications, last minute order cancellations and unpredictable forecasting. Secondly,Sainsbury’s food waste data has not been audited by a third party, unlike its rival Tesco, putting the validity of this data in question.

Edd Colbert, Campaign and Research Manager at Feedback, says “Supermarkets are beginning to feel the pressure of the global food waste movement and have no option but to change their behaviour. The first dominos have fallen with Tesco and Sainsbury’s announcements and over the next year Feedback will be monitoring each of the supermarkets closely to ensure they go beyond ambitious gestures and commit to effective long term actions to prevent food waste.”

Feedback are calling on all UK supermarkets to come clean and publicly report on how much food they waste in their operations and throughout their supply chains. These businesses already have much of this data available as they collectively report on food waste through the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary industry initiative. This was confirmed today by an anonymous employee from one of big six in the Evening Standard:

“The truth is that every store of every retailer measures their food waste very, very accurately because metrics drives our business. If they tell you otherwise they are being less than honest.”

The Standard’s investigation has largely focused on the amount of surplus food redistributed by each of the major retailers. Sainsbury’s is reported to lead the way with 7.6% of its surplus food actually being redistributed at present whilst Tesco comes second with 4.5%. The rest of the retailers fall even shorter with scores of 3.3% or less. Morrison’s and Lidl have not disclosed any information on how much food they redistribute. This is of particular concern, as Morrison’s declared almost a year ago that it planned to redistribute all of its surplus food after Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s BBC series Hugh’s War On Waste.

Whilst a great deal of attention is being given to redistribution initiatives, it is important to highlight that the amount of food waste generated within supermarket stores is miniscule compared to that which arises in the supply chain. If supermarkets are really serious about putting an end to waste they have to start taking responsibility for the waste they cause upstream by relaxing unnecessary cosmetic specifications, improving forecast accuracy, and putting an end to unfair trading practices.

Have you read the Evening Standard’s food waste story? Do you want to join the movement and help stop good food going to waste? Then sign the food waste pledge here to find how you can get involved.

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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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