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 988.

    Ditching the use by and sell by dates would be a good start, food will last a long time if kept cold and go off in a day if its kept warm. If it smells bad or looks bad it probably is bad if it looks ok and smells ok then it is probably ok. Food doesnt become dangerous just because a date on the packaging has passed and is not always safe if its within the date. They are for guidance only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    I rely on buy 1 get 1 free and half price offers as grocery money needs to stretch as far as it can in my household. But I only buy a BOGOF offer if I know that the other half won't go to waste else I will just buy one. I don't need to be greedy or careless. I freeze what I can so food keeps way past the sell by date even by weeks even normally refrigerated meats like bacon keep for ages frozen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    Bring back the greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers; do away with pre packed food.
    This would create jobs for low skilled workers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    ##972......Tesco's first duty is to their shareholders? That's stupid...with respect...without the business having any CUSTOMERS...there would be no business and subsequently no shareholders. Unless they keep their customers happy their business will disappear. Keep the customers coming back for more and then they will be able to look after their shareholders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    If supermarkets would stop putting too much produce in one bag e.g. potatoes, carrots, salad, then there would be far less waste by the customer. As a person living on my own, there's no point in my buying bags of potatoes, and it is impossible to buy the same quality of potatoes in smaller quantities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    972. ioioos
    When everything in supermarkets is designed to maximise profit to the point where physiologists have been employed to map the layout of the sales area then how can one look at a company that plans to manipulate you to spend more with anything but disdain
    If i were to manipulate you to give me money that would make me a nasty person but in business this is an accepted form of sales

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    30000 tonnes of food wasted in 6 months.
    Considering that there are more than 3000 tesco stores in UK, this is equivalent to less than 55 kg food being wasted in each Tesco store everyday.

    Sorry, but I am not going to cry.
    In my opinion, such low waste is acceptable when you consider the total size of operations in each Tesco store.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    Our economic system tolerates waste as long as there is profit in it, customers no longer trust their eyes and noses and put their faith in best before dates, whist many die because they are denied what we willingly discard without a second thought.
    It is not the production of food that is the problem it is our attitude as a society to its abundance where it is easily accessible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    And there's a shortage of food! lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    Why, when so many families are now relying on food banks, are supermarkets just throwing all this food away? With people dying from starvation in various parts of the world, food wastage should be a criminal offence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    Wastage never existed when we had local butchers, fishmongers, grocers etc. We all bought what we actually needed. Today we buy what we don't need just because the price "looks" good or we "think" we need it. So we over-consume. Hence the wastage (also we do not know how to make bubble and squeek, kedgerie, bread and butter pudding as we did - so the value of food has gone out of the window.

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    967. Gordon T
    Consumers want the lowest price for ONE item without having to buy more than they need or can use within the 'Sell By' time frame"

    Ignore the 'sell by' date - that's just for the retailer's information, and has absolutely zero relevance to food safety.

    Food with sell-by dates will usually last at least a few days beyond that, often a few weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    The offers Tesco have on fresh produce are ridiculous.
    reduced prices if you buy two.Most people can't eat one before they perish. Stop doing these silly offers and B-O-G-O-F offers and start selling things in amounts that people want at reasonable prices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    As a student I once worked at a farm that supplied Tesco with lettuce. I still remember watching a field full of lettuce get ploughed under because soil had blown onto it the night before and their buyer refused to sign off on it. We weren't even allowed to take a few home for our own consumption.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    964. Another reason why we're going to hell in a handcart.


    Surely a horsecart?

    Anyone for cheap, frozen lasagne? Neigh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    953.Emperor Wibble
    I agree but freezing does help. I work a long week and study part time but take a couple hours at some point planning most the weeks meals and preparing them and freezing excess for easier evenings. But if you have the time to shop little & often it's also a good approach as you're just buying what you need. Just need to plan either way rather than be tempted when go shopping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    962.Alex said "Whenever a company like Tesco decide to announce something that benefits the customer just remember their first duty is to their shareholders."

    Just like any business. The local guy isn't any different. He has to be viable, not charitable.

    People like to knock big business, but who wouldn't want to see a return on their investment, big or small?

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.


  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    we don't need a new way of shopping we just need to get back to the old ways of shopping locally as close to origin as possible & away from the supermarket monopolies. we need to reduce marketing chain between producers, retail outlets and customer and bring the power of production to meet our needs back to the farm gate & primary producers. we need to reconnect with ourselves and our needs

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    I used to have an outside catering company in London and after some fairly big events we used to take the leftovers down to Vauxhall and give it to the homeless but were stoped by Enviromental health because it was deemed dangerous to their health. There's no wining in this PC and Health and safety world


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