Tesco’s food waste climbed by 4% last year

As Tesco's chief executive used a keynote speech in Cape Town to implore companies to do more to tackle food waste, the UK supermarket revealed that its own food waste had increased by 4% to 59,400 tonnes last year.

The new waste figures, which extends to all UK stores but excludes suppliers, has seen food waste at Tesco rise by more than 2,000 tonnes over the last 12 months despite figures for 2013 and 2014 remaining steady.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We are confident that despite the small increase in our waste this year we have the right plans in place to see a reduction in future years and are proud of the work we have already done to redirect surplus food to provide millions of meals for those in need.”

The company has pledged to develop programmes and identify “hotspot” areas where it can address the problem. Tesco is already citing its alcohol isles and bakeries as the cause for the rise and has planned to implement “accurate production planning and introducing improved processes and control” to alleviate the issue.

The company, which began publishing food waste figures in 2013 and remains the only retailer to do so, has also stated that bakery waste which is used for animal feedstock was counted as part of the waste figure. Some industry figures don’t view this as waste because it serves an eventual purpose.

In total, the amount wasted equates to 1% of the food products sold by Tesco during the last financial year. With industry experts WRAP claiming that tackling food waste could create a £300m windfall in the supply chain alone, Tesco will be determined to address the issue.

War, waste and wonky veg

The new waste figures – released alongside the company’s annual report – come 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.

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.

Despite the rise in waste, Tesco has by no means remained dormant on the issue. The company’s chief executive Dave Lewis – who chairs the new food waste reduction coalition Champions 12.3 – took to the stage at the Global Summit of the Consumer Goods Forum to call on companies to deliver tangible action.

“When I arrived at Tesco we were the only UK retail company to publish our food waste data,” Lewis said. “What the data shows is that it’s clear where we need to focus our efforts…nearly three years after we announced it, we are still the only UK retailer publishing our data. Tackling food waste makes sense for business, it will help people and our planet, and it’s also the right thing to do.”

The company, which launched a new range of “wonky” cucumbers on Wednesday (15 June), has taken strides to reduce food waste through a range of innovative drives. Tesco recently completed a national roll-out of its online ‘FoodCloud’ platform that redirects surplus food from stores to provide millions of meals to local charities.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Tesco’s head of food waste reduction Mark Little revealed the intricate steps the company was introducing within its supply chain in order to cut back on food waste, including “wonky” ranges, skin packaging and employing trained agronomists across the globe.

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Matt Mace

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