Resource Use

Tesco publishes food waste data

Tesco has become the UK’s first retailer to publish its food waste figures. The ‘transparent’ data – which focuses on 25 key products – reveals that in the first six months of this year, 28,500 tonnes of food waste were generated in stores and distribution centres.

In collaboration with the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the multi-national corporation has produced case studies (‘footprints’) on its 25 best selling grocery items in the UK, as well as broader farm-to-fork metrics.

Highlighted percentiles include that 68 per cent of bagged salad is wasted, with 35 per cent of this occurring at home.

Key statistics and responses

Other main findings include:

  • 40 per cent of apples are wasted;
  • just under half of bakery items are wasted;
  • a quarter of grapes are wasted between the vine and the fruit bowl;
  • a fifth of all bananas are wasted;
  • uneaten food costs families £700 per year.

Tesco has responded by announcing that it will discontinue multi-buys on large bags of salad and will introduce ‘mix and match’ offers on smaller bags in their place ‘in a bid to help customers reduce the amount they are wasting at home’.

In addition, ‘display until’ dates are being removed from fresh fruit and vegetables, smaller cases are being used in store and 600 bakeries in larger stores have been rearranged to reduce the amount of bread on display.

Tesco further claims that it is involved in trials with growers to reduce pests and disease, and to trial new varieties of grapes that have a longer life. It is also working directly with suppliers to shorten the time it takes food to get from the field to the store. It has also introduced a new ‘state of the art’ temperature control system to ensure bananas last longer in transportation.

‘Responsibility’ to reduce waste

In an address to the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen today (21 October), Philip Clarke, Chief Executive of Tesco PLC, said: “When I said earlier this year that Tesco wanted to lead in reducing food waste I wasn’t just talking about reducing food waste in our own operations. I meant making a difference from the farmer’s field to the customer’s fridge and beyond.

“We are the world’s third largest retailer, so clearly we have a responsibility to minimise the food wasted in our stores. However, we sit at the heart of the value chain and this gives us a crucial vantage point and a shared responsibility to act far beyond the doors of our stores.”

Matt Simister, Tesco’s Commercial Director of Group Food, added: “This is just the start and we’ll be reviewing what else we can do.”

Tesco can do ‘much more’

Although the 'Tesco and Society: Using our scale for good 2013/14’ report claims that only one of the 32 per cent of total waste along the value chain occurs at the retailer level, food waste campaigning group Feeding the 5000 argues that ‘most food waste occurs further up the supermarket supply chains as a direct result of retailers’ buying decisions’.

In response to today’s publication of Tesco’s food waste data, and despite ‘being pleased’, Tristram Stuart, founder of the Feeding the 5000campaign, stated: “The figures published by Tesco today suggest that annual food waste in its stores is over four times more than the total amount of surplus food donated last year to redistribution charities in Britain. Evidently, retailers like Tesco can do much more to reduce food waste in their own operations.

“But we know that most food waste occurs further up the supermarket supply chains as a direct result of retailers’ buying decisions. Through our work in Kenya, we have evidence of instances where Kenyan growers supplying UK supermarkets are forced to waste more than 40% of their crops due to unnecessarily fussy retail cosmetic standards or cancellation of forecast orders.

“We need much more transparency and harmonised, granular data on retailers’ supply chain food waste from farm to fork – where food is wasted, what type of food it is and what state it is in. This will allow governments, social entrepreneurs and innovators to put in place the solutions needed to tackle food waste at scale.” 


Read more about Tesco and Society: Using our scale for good 2013/14 and about the global food waste scandal.