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Tesco makes good on pledge to reduce waste

Paving the way

We reported back in June on Tesco’s decision to remove ‘best before’ dates from 70 pre-packaged produce lines, to prevent edible food from being wrongly deemed unsafe and thus, discarded. At the end of 2017, the supermarket giant had pledged to eradicate edible food waste by March 2018, becoming the only UK retailer to no longer waste food fit for human consumption.

Serving 50 million shoppers throughout their 6,553 stores each week, the chain claims that less than 1 per cent of Tesco food is now wasted. In order to ensure the longevity of their endeavour, the supermarket now works with farmers and suppliers to adjust crop specifications as well as local charities and community groups through their Community Food Connection Programme, which works in conjunction with FareShare to redistribute food which cannot be sold, to charities and community groups who help feed people in need.

Concerns about the ethical nature of giving almost expired food to the homeless or those in need is well-documented; indeed supermarkets have in the past donated to food banks anonymously in order to side step the discussion. However, Tesco have soared ahead and have been relentless in their endeavour; following suit from our neighbours across the channel in France, whereby it has been illegal for supermarkets to throw away or destroy unsold food since 2016; forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks. The country has since been named Europe’s top country for food sustainability, owing to the fact that it loses just 1.8 percent of its total food production each year; a figure it plans on halving by 2025.

Tesco too are making great strides with their initiative, according to research recently conducted by Feedback Global, which ranked Tesco as the No. 1 among 10 UK retailers for its food waste initiatives. The research quantified what the brand have achieved on their mission to eradicate food waste thus far: - The first supermarket to publish third party audited food waste data.

- The first supermarket to sign up to the Sustainable Development Goal of halving food waste from farm to fork by 2030.

- Committed to extending transparency to include measurement of food waste in its supply chain.

- Significantly increased quantity of food redistributed to people in need; donating 7975 tonnes in 2017, representing a 40 percent increase on the previous year.

Head of food waste for Tesco, Mark Little claimed that their decision to overhaul the supermarket’s approach to labelling is that “customers may be confused by the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates on food” which subsequently leads to edible items being discarded as a precautionary measure.

When life gives you (green) lemons

Use them…that’s the overarching message from Tesco who are responding to a countrywide lemon shortage resourcefully – their second grand initiative to reduce food waste in the last twelve months. Lemon shortage has been a mounting concern in the UK, as the result of a significantly reduced end-of- season volume in Spain, where the UK harvests most of its lemons – as well a demonstrable increase in the demand for the fruit.

Tesco are subsequently stocking greener lemons, which are not only edible, but also last longer, gaining approximately two days’ shelf life as they turn yellow. The greener lemons are now available in 800 Tesco stores nationwide.


What’s clear is that over the last two years, Tesco have made remarkable progress in their endeavour to reduce food waste – tackling it from not just one, but several angles, leaving no stone unturned. Their commitment to the cause was first acknowledged in 2016 when the supermarket launched its ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ range of wonky fruit and vegetables – a produce line, including apples, pears, potatoes, parsnips, cucumbers, courgettes and frozen mixed berries, which were perfectly edible but had hitherto been considered unsightly.

Much to Tesco’s delight, the initiative was a hit with customers, the strawberries in particular proved hugely popular, accounting for the 15 percent of its total strawberry sales. The supermarket has also worked tirelessly to overhaul any issues arising from crop flushes – marking the products (strawberries for instance) at leading prices in kilo boxes.

Tesco’s Community Food Connection programme, which launched in 2016, in partnership with FareShare (recently crowned Best Food Waste Supply Chain) and social enterprise FoodCloud, connects Tesco stores to local charities and community groups, enabling the supermarket to redistribute food which remains unsold at the end of the day. Additionally, that food which is not taken charities, is offered to colleagues, thereby dramatically the amount of food which is wasted.

In spring 2018, Tesco declared it had collectively donated 7,975 tonnes of food, amounting to 19 million meals to almost 7,000 charities from their stores and distribution centres throughout the UK.

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