Buying 'wonky' produce would cut food waste, says Tesco

"Wonky" vegetables are going to waste due to shoppers' preference for perfect produce, says Matt Simister of Tesco

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British shoppers are contributing to food waste problems by only selecting "perfect" produce, says Tesco.

Speaking on Tuesday at a House of Lords inquiry into food waste, Matt Simister of the supermarket giant said domestic consumers were unwilling to consider imperfect fruit and vegetables.

UK customers picked the "cream of the crop", unlike their counterparts in central and eastern Europe, he said.

Supermarkets could do more to address the problem, he added.

Mr Simister, food sourcing director at Tesco, was speaking alongside his counterpart from Waitrose.

He told the House of Lords' European Union sub-committee on agriculture that he was looking at options to encourage people to buy the "old, ugly, misshapen" fruit and vegetables that tend to go to waste.

Old, ugly, misshapen vegetables Customers should be educated to buy 'old, ugly, misshapen' fruit and vegetables, says Tesco

When asked whether product standards were too high, he said that Tesco would look at putting "more misshapen products through our value range at better prices".

'Wonky carrot'

"There are opportunities to do more in this area," he said.

Mr Simister added that Tesco used different products for its central European markets.

"We are, in many cases, taking class one products into the UK and class two into central and eastern European food markets."

Tesco could put "the wonky carrot" into circulation, he said.

Tesco waste breakdown

  • 41% bakery
  • 21% fruit and vegetables
  • 8% convenience foods
  • 8% dairy
  • 6% "impulse", such as confectionery and soft drinks
  • 5% meat, fish and poultry
  • 2% "counters", such as cheese and deli meats
  • 2% frozen foods
  • 2% cereals
  • 2% beers and spirits
  • 2% pasta, rice and grains
  • 1% world foods

Source: Tesco

Earlier this year, Tesco said it was dropping some food promotions after disclosing that two-thirds of produce grown for bagged salad was wasted.

In the first figures of their type to be published, Tesco said that 68% of salad to be sold in bags was thrown out - 35% of it in the home.

Confusion

It has also moved to a "one-date" system to stop customer confusion between display dates and use-by dates.

Tesco revealed that it had generated almost 30,000 tonnes of food waste in the first six months of 2013. Of that total, 21% was made up of fruit and vegetables and 41% of bakery items.

In November, the publicly-funded recycling group the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said that British families threw away about £60 a month worth of food per household.

Glossy red apples UK consumers choose 'perfect' looking produce, like these apples

That is equivalent to six meals per week in food waste.

Wrap said that buying too much, serving large portions and confusion over food labelling were the main causes.

In 2008, the EU scrapped controversial rules that prevented the sale of oddly-sized or misshapen fruit and vegetables.

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