BOGOF deals 'exacerbate' food waste problem

Published: 17 Jan 2014

Buy-one-get-one-free deals and other discounts promoted by supermarkets 'exacerbate' the amount of food waste generated in the UK, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME). 
However, retailers have previously fought back at similar accusations with the British Retail Consortium claiming that supermarket special-offers causing food waste has been exposed as a 'myth' (see letsrecycle.com story). 
A survey undertaken on behalf of the Institution found that of 2,023 consumers polled this month, 70% said supermarkets urged them to buy more with 45% doing so. These shoppers said that BOGOF deals and half price promotions were the major ways supermarkets attracted them. 
The results show that a fifth of the people polled wasted or threw away more than 10% of the food they bought over Christmas and New Year. However, 41% of people said they wasted less than 10% of food and more than a third said they did not waste any food. 
Commenting on the findings, Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and the environment at IME, said that it would be wrong to lay all of the blame with supermarkets but discounting methods did "exacerbate" the problem. 
He said: "This latest survey shows that UK shoppers still feel they are encouraged to buy too much food, despite significant progress on raising awareness of food waste in 2013, and some retailer action to reduce over-purchasing. 
"There are various reasons why around a third to a half of all food produced in the world never reaches a human stomach, and while it would be wrong to lay all of the blame for waste with the supermarkets - deals like Buy-One-Get-One-Free, 'half price' offers and various other price discounting methods do exacerbate the problem." 
The IME's findings come a year after it published 'Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not' report which outlined the global food waste problem and potential ways to tackle it. It estimated that between 30-50% of all food produced globally is wasted - with discounts, confusion regarding date labelling and consumer demand for cosmetically pleasing produce among reasons cited for food waste. 
Dr Fox added that it is important that everybody, from consumers, to retailers and the government takes action to reduce the amount of food wasted. 
This has been recognised by supermarket giant Tesco which released details of its own food waste tonnages in October 2013 (see letsrecycle.com story). In a bid to tackle the issue, Tesco announced a number of initiatives to reduce food waste across the supply chain, including ending multi-buys on large bags of salad and developing 'mix and match' promotions to allow shoppers greater flexibility. 
Other retailers are taking steps to improve under the Courtauld Commitment - a voluntary waste reduction agreement for the grocery sector. 45 signatories signed up to the third phase of the Commitment which launched in May 2013 (see letsrecycle.com story) which includes a target to reduce household food and drink waste by 5% in tonnage terms against a 2012 baseline. 
Environmental policy adviser for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Alice Ellison said the key aim for retailers was to minimise waste. 
"WRAP evidence shows that the link between promotions and food waste is actually very small. The main method of promotions is cutting the price rather than Buy One Get One Free offers, which are rare for fresh products but one of a range of choices offering value to customers. 
"Cutting waste is one of the primary challenges for sustainability, but that process is underway. Consumers have cut over a million tonnes of food waste since 2007 and retailers have made great progress reducing waste in their supply chains. Excellent collaboration between retailers, their suppliers and customers is meeting challenging targets agreed with all four UK Governments." 
She added: "The key aim is to make it easier for us all to minimise waste. That means using more of what farmers produce, clear storage labelling, re-sealable packaging, advice on freezing and better understanding of the difference between a best before and use by date. All this work is well underway, and retailers will continue to do more." 
Love Food Hate Waste 
Related Links 
Institution of Mechanical Engineers 
At present, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that 4.2 million tonnes of household food is thrown away every year, which could have been eaten (see letsrecycle.com story). However, households have cut avoidable food waste by 21% since 2007. 
One way WRAP have targeted consumer food waste is through communications campaign Love Food Hate Waste which aims to raise awareness of food waste and the importance of reducing it. It provides consumers with tips, recipes and storage advice to reduce the amount of food waste and has been launched by a number of local authorities. 
Courtesy of LetsRecycle.com

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