Sainsbury’s Drops Food Waste Promise

Published on: 10 Apr 2017

Sainsbury’s may have promised in the past to halve household food waste, but today the retail giant is making a U-turn on that project.

They have scaled back their ambitions, as official statistics demonstrate that the average family will throw £700 of food away every year.

More Difficult Than Expected

The main reason for their about turn seems to be that it has been more difficult than expected to motivate a behavioural change in their customers.

Food Waste The ‘Waste Less, Save More’ campaign was launched in 2016. Set over 5  years, the aim of the plan was to help their customers to save money by showing them how to cut back on household food waste. They wanted to slash the figures by 50%, but it seems that they now feel that figure will be an impossible one to achieve.

The first year was spent on a £1 million trial in the market town of Swadlincote, in Derbyshire. The trial was intended to engage customers and help them to find new ways of reducing waste. However, it has now been abandoned as the supermarket feels that their targets are unlikely to be met.

The trial included gadgets such as food sharing apps and smart fridges for householders to test. Now could be a time for more new product development in this area.

“Waste Less, Save More is a brand new way of working and completely different to what anyone has done before, so it was hard to define a measure of success,” said Paul Crewe, head of sustainability, energy, engineering and environment for Sainsbury’s. “That said, we really wanted a stretching target to drive results and we’re really proud of the progress that has been made at a household level. I always say that we’re aiming for the stars, so it’ll still be a success if we land on the moon. Having spent the last year getting under the skin of household food waste, we have realised that this kind of behavioural change won’t happen overnight, but we have definitely seen positive progress on what will be a longer journey. What’s more we’re now looking to take the campaign nationwide. Even if we inspire small changes within our communities, these will add up to have a big impact.”

International Goal Alignment

The United Nations has also set out a sustainable development target of halving per capita food waste at the consumer and retail levels, and also reducing the food waste that occurs along the supply chain, by 2030.

Global food loss and waste is estimated at a cost of £770 billion a year in economic losses by the UN. A third of the world’s food is wasted, but at the same time, one in nine people around the world are malnourished.

15m tonnesThe UK’s contribution to this is estimated at 15 million tonnes per year, 7.3 million of which comes directly from households. The estimated retail value of the food is £7.5 billion, which is where that £700 figure comes from.

Next Phase

As the next phase of the programme begins, Sainsbury’s will be running an urban trial in Peckham, London. They will be measuring and analysing the way that food waste can be tackled in dense residential housing areas.

David Moon, head of food sustainability at Wrap added: “As the recent stall in progress reducing UK household food waste demonstrates, tackling food waste in the home is an extremely complex problem for which there is no single solution. Behaviour change takes time, and campaigns like Waste Less, Save More in Swadlincote are helping develop interventions and insights that will help long-term progress.”