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LS Retail | 22 November 2023

Six ways supermarkets can reduce food waste

Six ways supermarkets can reduce food waste

Food waste costs the global economy US$936 billion a year and contributes to issues such as food insecurity, climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Supermarkets in the UK alone throw away the equivalent of 190 million meals a year. To address this challenge, supermarkets need to find ways to offer a wide selection of food, keep it fresh, and minimize waste. Here are six ways to achieve that.

1. Use technology to manage expiry dates

Did you know that up to 87% of grocery store food waste is due to confusing expiration dates? We can change that.

Educate your customers:

Supermarkets play a vital role in reducing waste by educating customers about expiration dates. Simplify and standardize date information, making it clear and accurate.

Embrace technology:

Use expiration date tracking tools to automatically monitor product dates. This empowers stores to discount items nearing expiration, reducing waste and encouraging sales.

Dynamic pricing solutions:

Implement dynamic pricing to adjust item prices throughout the day. This not only captures customer attention but also reduces food waste by encouraging the purchase of items nearing expiration.

Too Good To Go App:

Explore innovative solutions like the Too Good To Go app. It connects customers with discounted surplus food in supermarkets, preventing waste while providing value. Join the movement for a smarter, sustainable approach to food retail.

2. Harness data and analytics to identify waste patterns

Despite technological strides, many supermarkets still rely on outdated methods like paper printouts. This hampers the ability to capture, analyze, and communicate crucial data, risking missed growth opportunities.

Advanced analytics solutions:

Leverage advanced data analytics and demand planning solutions to harness the power of collected data and big data. Predict demand, identify waste patterns, and order the precise amount of food needed.

Learn from Walmart's success:

Walmart's Intelligent Retail Lab showcases the potential of data and analytics. By automating product identification and comparing quantities with predicted sales demand, they optimize stock levels, reducing waste and capitalizing on sales trends.

Shopping data and AI integration:

While a fully automated store may not be every retailer's goal, utilizing shopping data and artificial intelligence empowers supermarkets to anticipate consumer preferences. This not only minimizes waste but also enables quick adaptation to sales trends, ensuring the right stock is in the right store at the perfect moment.

3. Switch to modern appliances

Did you know grocery retail consumes more electricity globally than data centers? The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports it's a whopping 2%! It's time for change.

Integrate energy and asset-monitoring solutions across stores for a positive global impact. This not only addresses energy concerns but also plays a vital role in shaping a sustainable global food system.

Balancing act:

Maintaining food quality while minimizing energy usage is a challenge. Modern, efficient refrigeration appliances are key. Internet of Things (IoT) technologies take it further, providing actionable insights for enhanced energy performance.

Smart monitoring for success:

Leverage IoT solutions to monitor food temperature and equipment energy output. Receive automatic alerts for maintenance issues, ensuring early fixes with minimal downtime.

Proven impact:

According to the FAO, IoT solutions have already saved food retailers $37 million in the last five years, reducing food waste and preventing over two million tons of carbon emissions.

4. Optimize food handling

Did you know that mishandling during transit and storage is a major contributor to food and packaging damage? A simple misplacement of heavy items on delicate produce can lead to significant losses.

Critical cold chain management:

Maintaining the cold chain is crucial, and even a single break can result in substantial and costly consequences. The FAO estimates that half of temperature-sensitive produce is lost post-harvest due to inadequate cold-chain logistics.

The impact of staff training:

Preventing these events is simpler than you think. Training staff is the key. By educating teams on tackling food waste and showcasing mitigation techniques, supermarkets can witness tangible improvements.

Success story: Metro Cash and Carry, Germany:

Learn from success stories like Metro Cash and Carry in Germany. They prioritize staff training on hygiene, food safety, and sustainable resource handling. The outcome? Reduced food loss, increased marketable products, and heightened awareness.

In short: Train your staff, reduce waste, and elevate awareness. It's not just good for business; it's essential for a sustainable future.

5. Embrace imperfect produce

Did you know that up to 15% of all produced food is lost before leaving the farm? Retailer demands for uniformity contribute to this, pressuring farmers to grow excess quantities and rejecting goods based on aesthetic preferences.

Ugly truth of food waste:

Supermarkets often discard perfectly edible produce based on appearance – knobbly carrots, marked apples, and wonky cucumbers. The current food system prioritizes uniformity over taste and environmental health.

France's pioneering laws:

France leads in tackling excess food waste. Legislation introduced in 2016 prohibits supermarkets from discarding edible food, sparking a wave of initiatives and businesses committed to waste reduction.

The rise of wonky veg boxes:

Enter the trend of selling wonky veg boxes – imperfect produce at discounted rates. Companies like OddBox rescue rejected vegetables, offering consumers a weekly box at 30% less than regular prices.

Environmental impact:

By rescuing "odd" produce, companies like OddBox not only provide a market for rejected items but also save tons of greenhouse gases and water required to grow each piece. It's a win-win for consumers, farmers, and the planet.

6. Donate surplus food

Recent data highlights the untapped potential for supermarkets to redirect surplus food to those in need. Surprisingly, in the UK, statistics reveal that the top 10 chains donate less than 9% of their surplus food for human consumption. Tesco leads in surplus food donation, targeting zero waste by optimizing forecasting and clearance processes, achieving 77% waste reduction. Meanwhile, Kroger stores in the US consistently donate food to food banks, with a pledge to provide three billion meals by 2025.

Call for increased efforts:

Charities emphasize the need for more action. The European Food Banks Federation encourages innovative approaches, like collaborating with local restaurants, creating anti-waste cookbooks, and utilizing surplus redistribution apps.


The global food waste issue demands a holistic shift across the entire supply chain. Are you equipped? Contact our retail technology experts to discover how tailored software can manage food surplus efficiently.

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