Asda has today (19 July) revealed that the the multi-channel initiative created in partnership with the University of Leeds is the first UK supermarket campaign to prove food waste savings for customers.

The retailer revealed that positive behaviour change was driven through a series of actions developed based on customer insight; providing shoppers with advice on elements such as food storage, labelling, and leftovers recipe inspiration. Moreover, in-store events reportedly encouraged customers to make household alterations.

Asda’s chief customer officer Andy Murray said: “As a major food retailer, we have a responsibility and the ability to bring about large scale change when it comes to tackling food waste. By partnering with the University of Leeds, the team has been able to take our insight and really explore this area, meaning that we now have a greater understanding of customer attitude and behaviour, helping shape the way we communicate with our customers and ultimately the way we do business.  

“However, our commitment to food waste doesn’t end here. While helping our customers live more sustainably is a step in the right direction, we understand the importance of addressing this issue throughout our entire supply chain. This is just one of many initiatives we are undertaking as we aim to tackle the issue in collaboration with everyone from our customers and suppliers, to our colleagues’ in-store.”

‘Biggest challenge of our time’

Research from the University of Leeds has highlighted that 81% of customers planned to followed the advice provided since the launch, while two million customers are making changes in the homes as a result of the campaign.

The findings of the partnership between the retailer and university coincides with the publication of Asda’s 2016 Green Britain Index – a study conducted by the supermarket to understand the views of 20,000 customers from its ‘Everyday Experts’ panel. 

The study, which focused on the importance of matters surrounding food waste and sustainability, found that 93% of Asda customers care about ‘being green’. Furthermore, 85% said they looked to retailers to help them reduce food waste at home, while 72% admitted they had stopped buying a product altogether because they found it would often go to waste. 

“Food waste is one of the biggest challenges of our time, it’s bad for the environment, economy and to society as a whole,” WRAP director Dr Richard Swannell said. “WRAP has a track record of reducing waste and at the heart of this work is collective action, which is pivotal to this success.

“We therefore welcome Asda’s work with the University of Leeds to help customers waste less and save money, and encourage more of this type of work to ensure food waste reduction continues.”

War on waste

The research comes at a critical time for retailers attempting to tackle food waste. TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recently waged war with supermarkets over the UK’s mounting food waste issues, while just last month Tesco revealed that its own food waste had increased by 4% to 59,400 tonnes last year.

The increased spotlight eventually culminated with the formation of the Courtauld Commitment 2025 by WRAP to “transform the food industry”, which could reduce food waste and carbon emissions while also delivering £20bn to the UK economy if British firms pledge to it.

Added exposure has led to food rediestribution organisation FareShare’s director of food Mark Varney stating that food waste campaigners should stop ‘beating up the supermarkets’ and instead look further up the supply chain at the untapped redistribution potential of thousands of processors and manufacturer.

These sentiments have been echoed by William Jackson Food Group’s sustainability director, who insisted that efforts should be focused on managing the environmental and social risks within the supply chain – akin to a health and safety assessment.

edie’s 2016 Responsible Retail Conference

Are current retail business models fit for purpose if we are to deliver the transformational change needed to create a low-carbon, zero-waste economy? 

Taking place on 21 September in London, the edie Responsible Retail Conference equips retailers, government representatives, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders with the tools they need to achieve more efficient resource use and improve brand reputation in the process.

View the full agenda for this brand new conference here and register to attend here.

George Ogleby

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