Sainsbury’s to take waste reduction programme nationwide

Sainsbury’s has announced that it is set to take its ‘Waste Less, Save More’ programme nationwide, following a 12-month trial in the town of Swadlincote, with headline initiatives to include teaching shoppers the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates and the release of £1 million in funding to 29 ‘Discovery Communities’ across the UK.

Sainsbury’s reveals 10 per cent drop in food waste
The Sainsbury's campaign has trialled education and awareness initiatives in the Derbyshire town of Swadlincote
Sainsbury’s will work with Mumsnet, Google and Argos to develop its campaign of food saving measures, which will also see the supermarket lead on the establishment of a national network of Community Fridges.

The five-year, £10-million programme, through a range of innovative approaches, aims to get shoppers to waste less food, with the added incentive of saving them money. It is estimated that the programme will help shoppers save around £350 on their annual grocery bill.

Despite the Swadlincote trial not managing to hit its ambitious target of reducing food waste in the area by 50 per cent, positive lessons from the pilot will be taken alongside the initiative to other parts of the country.

Results from the trial, compiled by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), show that Swadlincote residents reduced their avoidable food waste by nine per cent.

One third of households felt their awareness of food waste had risen over the course of the trial and food sharing initiatives such as a Community Fridge and use of the Olio app saw residents share the equivalent of 10,000 food items, while schools in the area saved an average of 21 kilograms of food per week, equating to a saving of £2,000 per school per year.

Building on this data collected from the trial, the nationwide rollout is accompanied by a 10-point plan to facilitate its implementation which focuses on three areas for action: Tech and Tools; Education and Inspiration; and Community Engagement.

The breakdown of the full 10-point plan is as follows:

Community Engagement

  • Release £1 million of funds to 29 ‘Discovery Communities’ across the UK for 120 development projects and trials, and provide 118 further communities with support and advice to develop local initiatives.
  • Be the lead supermarket partner for the first UK-wide Community Fridge Network.
  • Develop a partnership with Mumsnet to crowd source initiatives to tackle kitchen table food waste.

Tech and Tools

  • Develop a partnership with Google in order to develop new practical and scalable technology solutions for households to manage food waste.
  • Increase re-sealable and snap-pack packaging across 300 product lines.
  • Introduce a new stay fresh indicator on ‘by Sainsbury's’ ham which changes colour based on temperature and time opened, acting as a reminder that the product is still good to eat.

Education and Inspiration

  • Extend the ‘Fab Food’ Schools Programme to hundreds of primary and secondary schools, providing learning materials to schools and encouraging pupils to visit Sainsbury’s stores.
  • Roll out a pilot to help inform customers of the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates.
  • Include food waste tips on packaging across more than 170 high-waste items including berries, herbs, cheese and citrus fruits.
  • Distribute more ‘Waste less, Save more’ signposting and information around key kitchen items, such as blenders and spiralizers, in the Argos catalogue.

Reductions made, money saved

Commenting on the news, Paul Crewe, Project Lead for ‘Waste less, Save more’, said: We’ve learnt a huge amount as a result of our 12-month pilot. We now have a far deeper understanding of how to help households waste less food and save money, as well as the scale of the challenge.

Sainsbury’s to take waste reduction programme nationwide
Apps like Olio can be used to pass on food that you are not going to use to make sure it doesn't go to waste
"In addition to continuing to reduce food waste in our own operations, we set out on our five-year journey to discover ways to help our customers reduce food waste at home. Where we worked directly with households and schools, we saw clear results with tangible improvements in awareness of the issue and an appetite to see what could be changed. In addition, where we trialled interventions we saw significant reductions in the amount of food being binned and money saved. We are looking forward to the next stage of our journey, working with communities across the UK and encouraging further momentum through our 10-point plan."

Meanwhile, Dr David Moon, Head of Food Sustainability at WRAP, which helped Sainsbury's evaluate its Swadlincote trial, added: "This was an aspirational undertaking and a significant investment by Sainsbury's, to address an important issue for consumers.

“Our evaluation found that customers clearly valued the help they received. Swadlincote enabled Sainsbury's to test a range of innovative interventions, while illustrating the massive challenge we all face in changing the way we shop, cook and store food. We are pleased that Sainsbury's is going to continue to help consumers take action to reduce the amount of food they throw away."

The fight continues

Sainsbury’s announcement that it is extending its ‘Waste less, Save more’ programme is another step in the fight against food waste, one month after the release of Parliament’s Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s report ‘Food Waste in England’ in supermarkets were roundly criticised for not doing enough to combat food waste.

The report called on supermarkets to relax their rules on the sale of ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables and to release their food waste figures, something which only Tesco and Sainsbury’s did in 2015/16, with Sainsbury’s recording a 10 per cent drop in food waste.

At the time of the release of the report (30 April), Sainsbury’s took issue with the recommendations contained in the report, with a spokesperson stating that Sainsbury’s was “disappointed” that the report seemingly failed to acknowledge the work done by supermarkets to reduce waste and suggested that manufacturing should not escape scrutiny given that the sector accounts for more than nine times the amount of food waste produced by the retail sector.

The supermarket will no doubt be hoping that its extension of ‘Waste less, Save more’ serves to silence its critics, at least for now.

To find out more about Sainsbury’s ‘Waste less, Save more’ campaign, visit the Sainsbury’s website.

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