WRAP: Supermarkets must combat £14.9bn of food wasted in homes annually
WRAP has urged major food retailers to improve their packaging and make labelling less confusing for UK customers, who last year binned £14.9bn worth of groceries at home.
In its latest retail survey report, published today (5 November), the organisation reveals the results of its research into how 60 supermarkets across the UK manage food waste across the 2,000 products most commonly wasted in homes.
While praising supermarkets for working to remove date labels from loose and pre-packed produce, with one-quarter of such lines now carrying no date labels, the report found that many bakery, meat and dairy lines were sold with two days or less left on their date labels.
It states that supermarkets must do more in differentiating between ‘best before’ dates, which indicate that the quality of a product may deteriorate, and ‘use by’ dates, which indicate when it becomes less safe to consume the food. WRAP believes that confusion between the two among consumers triggers at least 600,000 tonnes of food waste annually. In a bid to rectify this issue, nine of the retailers examined by WRAP have agreed to review or amend date labelling on their yoghurts and cheese.
WRAP is additionally calling for supermarkets to stop using the phrase “freeze on day of purchase” on packaging, as it believes that people are throwing away good food before its ‘use-by’ date if they miss the perceived window to freeze products. Eleven UK retailers are either in the process of removing this phrase or have already completed the phase-out, WRAP notes in the report.
A further key call to action detailed in the report is for more work to make smaller pack sizes affordable. WRAP notes that those who live alone and therefore want to buy small loaves of bread face paying around 74% more per kg for their product.
“The way food and drink is packaged, labelled and priced can influence household food waste, and retailers and brands are uniquely placed to help minimise food waste in the home,” WRAP’s director Peter Maddox said.
“Our research shows that people want clear, consistent information on pack to help them keep food fresher for longer. Overall, we’ve seen good progress from all, but we have also been very clear with each company where more work is required and where they are falling short.”
Of the food wasted in the UK annually, supply chain waste and consumer waste remain the two largest contributors, accounting for 2.85 million tonnes and 7.1 million tonnes each year respectively according to the latest data from WRAP.
In a drive to tackle this issue, several retailers have signed up to WRAP’s Courtauld 2025 Commitment, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target to halve global food waste at a “farm-to-fork” level by 2030.
Building on the Commitment, WRAP last year partnered with IGD to publish a Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, detailing best-practice advice for businesses across the entire food supply chain, including producers, manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and foodservice companies announced as early adopters of the cause. As of September, the Roadmap had helped 121 of the UK’s biggest food businesses to collectively mitigate 53,000 tonnes of food waste.
On household-level waste specifically, WRAP is working with the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) on a new scheme enabling members of the UK public to commit to align their food waste outputs with SDG target 12.3. Called ‘Step Up to the Plate’, the initiative is also open to businesses.
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