Food firms wage war on waste

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Waste Supply chain Supply chain management

War on food waste led by grocery think-tank IGD
War on food waste led by grocery think-tank IGD
UK food firms have eliminated 1,400t of waste in a project led by grocery think-tank IGD and commissioned by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). Participants also believe they could eradicate waste by a further 1,193t within a year.

The figures, published on WRAP's website were the result of a collaborative project that began in December 2009 and ran until February this year. The programme involved retailers Musgrave Group; Sainsbury’s; Morrisons; Tesco; and Marks & Spencer and suppliers United Biscuits; World Flowers; Noon; MM UK; Natures Way Foods and Uniq.

Each project paired a retailer and a manufacturer and tackled food and packaging waste in three phases. First, the teams used systematic methods, such as value stream mapping, to get a complete picture of supply chain processes and waste.

Second, they targeted one or more root causes of waste and developed new ways of working to reduce it.

Third, they took the lessons learned and extended them to other categories and products.

Consistent measure

The project report, Reducing food waste through retail supply chain collaboration, ​ provides recommendations for the whole industry, such as adopting tonnage as a consistent measure of waste.

The report coincided with this week's launch of United Against Waste, a campaign to slash food and drink waste generated by restaurants, caterers and hospitality firms, led by Unilever’s foodservice arm, Unilever Food Solutions.

Andy Dawe, head of food and drink, WRAP, who spoke at the event, said enhancing demand forecasting and planning could yield big wins for processors looking to cut waste in foodservice and retail.

In the retail sector, Dawe told “WRAP is working with manufacturers through mechanisms like waste reviews. We are looking at where waste is arising, the ingredients brought in and what goes out of the door and assessing the gap between the two and the value of waste not sold. There’s a massive opportunity for the industry to increase margins through tackling that gap.”


Selling waste to third parties yielded some benefits, but these were ‘infinitesimal’ in comparison with gains from increasing revenue by ensuring more food was sold to consumers rather than wasted, he said.

In its report, The composition of waste disposed of by the UK hospitality industry​, WRAP estimates that cost of avoidable food waste in the sector is £722M. According to Unilever Food Solutions, this food is worth about £2.3bn in lost sales, based on 69% gross profit.

The firm unveiled global consumer research from its second World Menu report, Sustainable kitchens: reducing food waste,​ at the same time as the campaign at Unilever house in London. 82% of UK respondents said it was important that places to eat aimed to reduce the amount of food waste thrown away every day. 40% said they would pay more for meals in places that have a commitment to reduce food waste.

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