Tesco says almost 30,000 tonnes of food 'wasted'

Tesco Extra, Watford Tesco estimated that, across the UK food industry, 40% of apples were wasted, as were just under half of bakery items

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Supermarket giant Tesco has revealed it 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.

Using its own data and industry-wide figures, it also estimated that across the UK food industry as a whole, 68% of salad to be sold in bags was wasted - 35% of it thrown out by customers.

Shopper Carmen Weir says she buys extra food if it is on special offer in the supermarket

The retailer is introducing measures to reduce wastage including developing promotions for smaller bags of salad.

The latest figures published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) suggested 15 million tonnes of food went to waste in the UK in 2010. Figures for 2012 will be published next month.

Publishing its food waste figures for the first time, Tesco said that, in the first six months of this year, its stores and distribution centres generated 28,500 tonnes of food waste.

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

The largest proportion of that - about 11,700 tonnes - was classified as "bakery", and the second largest category, making up around a fifth of the total, was fruit and vegetables.

Dairy products and convenience foods such as ready meals each made up 8% of the waste, impulse buys such as confectionery and soft drinks accounted for 6%, and meat, fish and poultry for 5%.

The remainder of the waste was split between other categories such as alcohol, cereals and frozen food.

Tesco said that, where possible, if food could not be sold it was either donated to poverty charity FareShare, converted into animal feed for livestock, or was recycled into renewable fuel.

Prime Minister David Cameron recently praised the FareShare charity and, on Monday, his spokesman told a regular Westminster briefing: "There will be widespread concern about levels of food that go to waste and that's why the prime minister has noted the excellent work that FareShare does."

Graphic showing UK food waste figures

Tesco has also given wastage estimates for the 25 best-selling products across the UK food industry as a whole.

The figures were based on waste data from Tesco supermarkets, distribution centres, suppliers and producers - combined with Wrap figures on levels of waste in UK homes.

It estimated that 24% of grapes were wasted between the vine and the fruit bowl and that a fifth of all bananas were unused - with one-in-10 thrown away by customers.

It also suggested some 40% of apples and 47% of bakery items in the UK were wasted.

'No quick fix'

Tesco said it addressing the problem of waste by ending multi-buys on large bags of salad, removing "display until" dates from fresh fruit and vegetables, using smaller cases in stores, and rearranging 600 in-store bakeries to reduce the amount of bread on display.

Richard Swannell, Wrap: "This is about helping us save money"

And it said it was involved in trials with apple growers to reduce pests and disease.

Other measures to tackle the problem would include providing simple tips to customers about storing fruit, Tesco said.

It said it would also share tips about how to use leftover bread, adding it was working with grape and banana suppliers to improve delivery times and conditions.

Matt Simister, Tesco's commercial director of group food, said there was "no quick-fix single solution" to tackling food waste.

"Families are wasting an estimated £700 a year and we want to help them keep that money in their pockets, rather than throwing it in the bin," he said.

Start Quote

The minute you walk into the supermarket you may be able to get a few bargains but, more likely than not, you'll be nudged into buying stuff you didn't really want or need and it will go in the bin”

End Quote Joanna Blythman Investigative food journalist

"We're playing our part too and making changes to our processes and in store.

"Ending multi-buy promotions on large packs of bagged salads is one way we can help, but this is just the start and we'll be reviewing what else we can do."

He said Tesco was working with its suppliers to try to cut waste at all stages of the journey from farm to fork.

Richard Swannell, director of Wrap, said: "We welcome Tesco's approach to tackling food waste across their whole supply chain, and by identifying the hot spots they can tackle these areas effectively.

"Food waste is a global issue and collaborative action is essential if we are to successfully reduce food waste and reap the financial and environmental benefits of doing so."

Investigative food journalist Joanna Blythman, meanwhile, said consumers were being "ripped off" by supermarket promotions - especially those involving fresh food.

"What we could say to consumers is 'wise up'," she told the BBC News Channel.

"The minute you walk into the supermarket you may be able to get a few bargains but, more likely than not, you'll be nudged into buying stuff you didn't really want or need and it will go in the bin."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    761. HooHum
    Would they sell more if they offered it at 25% of the price?

    They do, there is a discount fridge in every store. If you went in at 9pm everything would be on at 90% discount if they are running their routines properly, there won't be much there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    I always waste their ready meals, because they are horrible..

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    Has anyone tried quantifying how many tonnes of perfectly good, edible, nutritious and delicious pumpkins are wasted each Halloween in the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    Actually, that isn't bad going.

    Assuming that Tesco sell 1/8 of all food products sold in the UK, then 30,000 tonnes over 6 months works out at less than 22 grams per person per day.

    Assuming that 22 grams are the salads and such that the women folk think are good for us and which we all bin because we aren't rabbits, then we are not merely frugal but intelligent with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    I have decided to buy what I can from the local traders, such as butcher, the fruit and veg man on the market, if I can a farmers market. The prices are competitive, in fact it can be quite a bit cheaper than the supermarket. I would rather support local farmers directly than faceless corporations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    If I bake a cake at home I don't expect it to be eaten in one day - it keeps for up to a week in some cases. I've always thought it's ridiculous that supermarkets have to sell their fresh bakery items on the same day as they're made. Why not keep them for a second and third day, perhaps reducing the price slightly each day?

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    Lefties, ecozealots etc. always a good source of amusement.

    First the lefties tell us we can't have preservatives

    Then the lefties tell us we can't have any packaging

    Surprise, surprise ... unpackaged, unpreserved food doesn't last out the week

    Now the lefties moan when we throw away the rotting food they caused.


  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    This does not surprise me at all, especially for Tesco. I stopped buying fresh fruit and veg from Tesco some time ago as the shelf life was appalling. Most things never lasted more than a day, if that sometimes. I'd be interested to see the results for the other supermarkets as Sainsbury's fresh produce definitely lasts much much longer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    I do hope food is given away to the homeless at the end of the day, rather than being wasted completely and just chucked away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    Try doubling (at least) this staggering figure to get a more true waste figure. Food that is 'rejected' due to its appearance should also be included within these figures. Food not considered within required aesthetic levels are rejected with a large proportion becoming waste. This is also why a number of variants have disappeared from our shelves because thay are difficult to standardise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    I think, and it's been noted in other comments, that it's difficult to buy fruit and veg without accruing waste. Someone suggested smaller portions and I agree with that wholeheartedly. Another suggestion might be 5-a-day bags, a selection of five (or equiv.) pieces of fruit or veg per bag. I think this could reduce waste significantly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    My Local Tesco store throws away bakery items that could be marked down.
    Bread does not become unuseable just because it was baked 12 hours ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    Richard Swannell, director of Wrap, said: "Food waste is a global issue and collaborative action is essential if we are to successfully reduce food waste and reap the financial and environmental benefits..."

    In short then: absolutely nothing will be done about it and we'll be debating this again in HYS in three years time.
    Just like we did last time. And the time before...

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    Like others here, I have noticed that a pack of soft fruit starts to go mouldy in the fridge after 2 days. A punnet of 5 peaches starts to rot after 2 have been eaten.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    They could very well donate to people on food bank...absolute shameful not only to Tesco but to all big chains..as their number may not be that different from Tesco...

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    Let's have a more reasoned argument about GM crops to reduce waste instead of the knee jerk blanket ban.

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    Levels of poverty are so bad that we now have a lot of food banks. Surely it isnt beyond someones wit to donate this food to them on the day of the use by date, rather than destroying it. Come on Councils & charities & Tesco -DO IT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    Interesting that BBC put the energy price hikes (£135 per year) as a bigger headlines than the food waste per household (£700) per year - this should be the main 'consumer squeeze headline' albeit not consistent with official BBC/Labour policy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.


    Can you please write in English please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    EU rules stop us from feeding much of this usable food energy to pigs.

    Another example of the EU overstepping what should be its jurisdiction.


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