Tesco has cut 200,000 tonnes of food waste since it began reporting waste figures, with departing CEO Dave Lewis urging fellow retailers to publish their data and set reduction targets.
Since Tesco began reporting its food waste figures in 2013 it has cut 45,000 tonnes of food waste from its global operations, while helping reduce waste from suppliers by 155,000 tonnes in the past three years.
From broadening fruit and veg specifications, to helping manage bumper crops, the supermarket reports that 77 per cent of its food safe for human consumption now does not go to waste.
Lewis chairs the anti-food waste coalition Champions 12.3, which has warned global food waste now accounts for eight per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
“One third of the world’s food is going to waste, while one in nine people go hungry. If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet. In order to halve global food waste by 2030, more must be done with more urgency than ever before,” Lewis said.
“Significant progress is being made. The UK has cut its food waste by 27 per cent since 2007 and hundreds of companies, including many of our own suppliers, are doing their part too. But there is still more to do. We need even more companies to set food waste reduction targets and publish their data.
“We are also asking the UK government, and its counterparts around the world, to embed food loss and waste reduction into post-Covid plans to bolster supply chains, as well as strategies to meet commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”
In 2016 Tesco launched its Perfectly Imperfect range of “wonky" fruit and veg, which quickly proved popular with shoppers.
The range has included items such as apples, pears, potatoes, parsnips, cucumbers, courgettes, strawberries and frozen mixed berries, selling over 20,890 tonnes in the UK and over 15,000 tonnes in Central Europe.
The supermarket has also aimed to make sure crop flushes don’t go to waste, with surplus offered to customers at value rather than being wasted on farms.
In December 2019 it widened specifications on potatoes and added customer messaging on pack to take as much crop as possible from flood hit growers in Eastern England.
The supermarket has also improved its processing operations. “By connecting our growers with suppliers of fresh and frozen foods, we can help provide a stable demand for produce that falls outside our specifications. For example, we help our potato grower, Branston, to supply our manufacturer, Samworths. Potatoes outside our specifications are used in our own brand mashed potato. This increases the amount of crop used and saves edible produce being ploughed back into the field,” Tesco reported.
Furthermore the company has played matchmaker between suppliers and food waste charities such as FareShare, with many of its suppliers now also donating surplus food directly to communities where they operate.