Reducing food waste is rightly top of customers and our members’ priorities. We must make the most of the food we product and reducing waste makes a huge contribution to improving sustainability.
Retailers have made great strides in the last decade, working within their own businesses, with their suppliers and helping their customers but we know there is a long way to go. WRAP, the independent experts, estimates the total food wasted once it leaves a farm in the UK is around 10 million tonnes per year. Of that the bulk, about 70%, is food wasted in our own homes and about 18% is wasted in manufacturing and catering. Very little is actually wasted in retailer’ stores and distribution depots, our latest estimates supported by WRAP’s figures are around 200,000 tonnes per annum, or two per cent of the UK’s annual food waste.
Although the food waste from stores is a small proportion of the total, retailers know they have a huge opportunity and responsibility to reduce the total figure. Retailers have a direct relationship with both manufacturers and customers and are working with them to bring about a long-term sustained reduction in waste levels. The reductions we are delivering are measured through the Courtauld 2025 agreement which has been developed with all 4 UK Governments and the latest target will reduce food waste by 20% by 2025.
We have been working through the Courtauld Initiative since 2009 and a key element focuses on helping our customers reduce their food waste. By using resealable packaging, clear instructions on how to store and freeze products and making the most of leftovers UK consumers reduced their food waste by 15 per cent over a five-year period. Our members are continuing to work with customers and communities to develop further innovative and effective ways to help cut household food waste.
Supermarkets recognise the need to do more cutting food waste on farms. There has already been good progress, making the most of the entire crop in the field or more of the carcass of animals. Other measures include promoting 'wonky' fruit and veg, smarter forecasting and reviewing storage and transport arrangements. However, we need to do more so the BRC is co-ordinating discussions with the National Farmers' Union and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board to understand why food is wasted and what more can we collectively do to cut it.
As well as cutting food waste we also know we need to address the small amount of surplus but edible food at our stores and depots. Members are working with charities to redistribute surplus food to those most in need. Although a fraction of the food wasted, we know this can make a real difference and are determined as much surplus food should be distributed as possible.