‘Scandalous waste’ of supermarket own brand food
Approved Food, the UK’s largest online retailer of surplus food and drink, has welcomed today’s progress report from WRAP, showing the amount of food wasted in the UK has fallen by almost half a million tonnes over three years.
However, the business insists more can be done to free up unwanted food further up the supply chain, particularly where supermarket own brand products are involved.
Statistics revealed today by the waste prevention body WRAP show that between 2015 and 2018, total food waste levels in the UK fell by 480,000 tonnes. The data is part of WRAP’s latest Courtauld Commitment 2025 milestone report, which charts progress in food waste reduction since 2007.
But, says Approved Food MD Andy Needham, this is nowhere near enough. While he welcomed the reduction in household waste, there was still much work to be done, particularly within the supply chain.
He said: “It’s scandalous. The manufacturing sector still wastes around 1.5 million tonnes of food every year and we see the hidden issues behind this, day in and day out, for example, food that is past its best before date being binned when it is still perfectly good to eat.
“Nobody knows what 1.5 million tonnes looks like, so we laid out pallets of rescued food from our distribution centre in our yard. The 60 pallets contained 20 tonnes of surplus food.
“If we had continued this line with the full 1.5 million tonnes manufacturers waste each year, it would have reached New York City all the way from Barnsley. That is the size of the issue we need to address.”
Mr Needham added: “WRAP wants to engage with 500 new food manufacturing businesses to help address this; however, those producing own brand goods for supermarkets will not have the freedom to choose to whom the food is donated or sold to.
“This is restrictive, limits competition, disadvantages and disincentivises suppliers and opens retailers to risk, but most of all, results in good, edible food being binned. We want these barriers to be removed so that food that would be otherwise wasted can be ‘rescued’ for redistribution.”
Approved Food brand ambassador and waste guru Jonathan Straight commented: “The figures are encouraging and show a step in the right direction but there is still a long way to go, particularly within the supply chain.
“We are calling on the big retailers to allow more access to food further up the supply chain – food that has been produced but has not been delivered to store. This includes supermarket branded products that have been produced by the manufacturer but are then rejected by the supermarket as they may be too close to their best before date, or there may have been a change in the packaging design.
“Own brand accounts for at least half of all the food produced – its destiny can no longer be left in the hands of a small number of people. It is high time this was opened up so that the problem can be correctly tackled. Without this change, progress will remain limited.”
Approved Food also campaigns for better education on food labelling, particularly around best before dates, which it says can be misleading and leads to perfectly good food being thrown away. Tinned, dried or vacuum-packed food is often perfectly safe to eat for months or even years after the best before date on the label.