Co-Op to Sell Food Past Sell-By

Published on: 5 Jan 2018

Co-OpCo-Op has decided to sell food after its sell-by date in a bid to reduce food waste coming off its shelves.

After a successful trial, the chain is now extending the offer to further stores.

First big venture

Though many independent stores have already sprung up around the country to tackle food waste, this will be the first big retailer selling food after the sell-by date. Though the food is supposed to have been sold, it is still fit for consumption, which is why this is allowed legally.

According to the Food Standards Agency, the ‘best before’ date indicates a time at which the food will be at the highest quality – not at which it is still edible.

The East of England Co-Op will be introducing the scheme for ambient products, with 125 stores introducing the new deal. Everything sold past the date indicated on the packaging will retail for a nominal price of 10p.

There were 14 stores involved in the initial trial, which was successful enough to launch the idea across the brand. Products included in the deal will be pasta, crisps, rice, tinned foods, and similar goods. Food workers reported that shoppers loved the idea and snapped up the discounted items.  

A new marketing campaign dubbed ‘The Co-op Guide to Dating’ will help to launch the scheme.

East of England Co-op joint chief executive Roger Grosvenor said: “We are committed to reducing waste in our business and The Co-op Guide to Dating is one of many initiatives we have instigated to make the East of England Co-op as efficient as possible, reducing our impact on the environment.”

Shoppers keen

It seems that shoppers are very interested in the idea of the scheme. The retailer has made plans to leave discounted products on sale after their ‘best before’ for one month, which will hopefully save at least 2t of food which would normally be thrown away. They may not stay on the shelves for even that long, if the trial is anything to go by.

Bargain Shelf“During our trial we found our 10p items went within hours of being reduced, sometimes quicker,” said Grosvenor. “The vast majority of our customers understand they are fine to eat and appreciate the opportunity to make a significant saving on some of their favourite products. This is not a money making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain. By selling perfectly edible food we can save 50,000 plus items every year which would otherwise have gone to waste.”

The campaign will included phrases such as ‘It’s not nice to get dumped’ and ‘Don’t be a binner, have it for dinner’ to tap into the dating parallel.

WRAP approval

The scheme definitely falls under the approval of WRAP, the government’s Waste and Resources Action Plan.

A spokesperson said, “While ‘use by’ date labels indicate when a product is safe to eat, ‘best before’ date labels only refer to when food is at its best. As such, it is perfectly safe to sell food at or after its ‘best before’ date.”

Those who work in supply chain jobs will already know that there is a constant demand for more goods, as edible food is thrown out and poor harvests or seasons may cause shortages of certain items.

The WRAP has previously estimated that people in the UK throw away around £13 billion worth of edible food every single year, some from within homes and some from within shops and restaurants. This move to continue selling food outside of best-before dates may help to change that.