Retailers make 'good progress' slashing £14.9bn food waste bill

5th November 2019

Web food waste istock 172481514

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Food and drink ,
  • Retail and wholesale ,
  • Waste ,
  • Sustainability


Carlos Felipe Gaitan-Mejia

UK retailers have made good progress following best-practice guidance on date labels, product life, pack size, and storage advice for groceries, an investigation by WRAP has uncovered.

After visiting nearly 60 retailers and examining 2,000 products, the researchers found that the shelf life for milk has increased by 1.5 days over the last year, potentially cutting 20,000 tonnes of waste annually.

A quarter of all pre-packaged and unprepared fresh produce now carries no date label, while three retailers have removed 'best before' guidance from some of their fresh products.

There has also been a significant increase in use of the snowflake label advising customers to freeze products, rising from 15% to 50%, and doubling to 79% for bread items.

WRAP said that around a fifth of food brought in to UK homes ends up as waste, and that this is estimated to have a retail value of £14.9bn.

“The way food and drink is packaged, labelled and priced can influence household food waste, and retailers are uniquely placed to help minimise food waste in the home,“ said WRAP director, Peter Maddox.

“Overall, we've seen good progress from all, but we have also been very clear with each company where more work is required and where they are falling short.“

WRAP published the findings alongside new guidance for fresh, uncut fruit and vegetables, co-produced by the Foods Standards Agency and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Despite some good progress, it was also found that retailers are failing to remove 'open life' guidance that tells customers to eat a product within a certain time after opening it.

A whopping 90% of hard cheese block cheddar packs carried advice to use within five or seven days of opening, despite having an average available life of 64 days.

It was also found that bagged salads typically have open-life advice of just one day, which WRAP described as “very conservative“, while 10% of 2.5kg bagged white potato had less than two days available product life.

And while small packs of bread – 400g loaves – were found in two-thirds of stores, they were on average 74% more expensive per kg than 800g loaves.

WRAP said it also wants the phrase “freeze on day of purchase“ dropped as it can lead people to throw away good food, instead of freezing it up until the acceptable date.

“Public concern has grown over plastic packaging since our last survey, particularly around fresh produce, and we have updated our guide to address single use, problematic plastics in this category,“ Maddox continued.

“Removal of packaging must be done carefully to avoid food waste, and we now have a clear set of principles that will help limit plastic use, and ensure removal is done in a safe and sustainable way.“

Image credit: ©iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

How much is too much?

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Vanessa Champion reveals how biophilic design can help you meet your environmental, social and governance goals

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

Senior consultant, EcoAct

3rd April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close