Supermarkets producing ‘viable volumes’ of surplus food that could go to charity, study finds

Retailers are producing "viable volumes" of surplus food that arise at the back of store which could be redistributed direct to charity and provide social benefit, according to new report from the Waste and Resources Action Programme(WRAP).

The trials, detailed in the new report entitled ‘The Food Connection Programme’, is the UK’s first piece of quantitative research on store-level surplus food redistribution.

The research found that while tonnages of surplus food at store level are small in comparison to the whole supply chain, the volumes are sufficient and viable to deliver real benefit to those who need it.

The report also highlights the barriers to rolling our redistribution from stores on a nationwide scale are still significant due to current capacity and resource limitations within both charity and retailer processes.

WRAP developed six trial partnerships between retailers and charities to identify barriers to redistribution and how they could be overcome. WRAP worked with food waste charities FareShare and FoodCycle as well as Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Waitrose on the study. All the stakeholders form part of WRAP’s Food Redistribution Industry Working Group (IWG).

On average, around 25kg of surplus food was collected on each store visit during WRAP’s validation exercise. This average increased to around 35kg per collection during the trial and represents a 40% uplift, illustrating that the third party support provided through the trial could increase the amount of surpluses redistributed.

According to WRAP’s figures, this indicates that this could create approximately 83 meals per each 35kg collection.

As a result of these findings, retailers and charities have agreed that further collaboration is required to investigate alternative processes through which food surpluses can be cost effectively and quickly redistributed to local charities.

WRAP head of food and drink Andy Dawe said: “Both the Industry Working Group and the trials were intended to build on the current good practice and better understand the challenges, and possible solutions, to make redistribution a more viable option for all involved.

“By drawing on the experiences and expertise of both the voluntary and business sectors, we now have a better understanding of the surpluses available at store level and are closer to overcoming some of the barriers to redistribution, both at store level and across the supply chain.

“The working group has laid the foundations which the whole sector can build upon. In order to realise many food waste prevention opportunities we now need to see more collaboration within the industry, and with charities, to expand on this good work and make more of this valuable food available to those that need it.”

FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell added: “The results of the trial show that redistributing surplus food from supermarkets directly to charities not only provides them with food but also saves them money. At a time of such urgent need, this is incredibly important.

“While the majority of surplus food exists further up the supply chain, we are committed at FareShare to ensuring no good food goes to waste.”

Liz Gyekye

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