How are supermarkets tackling food waste?

Food waste is the topic on every grocer’s lips this Spring. With around 15 million tonnes of food being thrown away every year in the UK (according to Love Food Hate Waste) it’s no surprise that the bandwagon is being firmly jumped on by supermarkets and wholesalers across the country.

A few weeks ago, ASDA launched what they are calling the Wonky Veg Box – a box full of fresh veg that you can pick up in store for only £3.50. According to ASDA, the box has enough vegetables to feed an entire family and costs 30% less than standard fruit and veg in the supermarket. So, why is it so much cheaper? Because it’s “wonky”. There is a mass rejection of “ugly” vegetables as a lot of consumers don’t see them as fit to eat – if it doesn’t look nice, they assume it’s out of date – when, in fact, the vegetables are completely safe to eat and 100% in date, they just don’t look “pretty”. This frame of mind is unfortunately contributing massively to the food waste problem.

And this box of ugly vegetables doesn’t just allow the shopper to spend less money on healthy food, it allows farmers to get more of their crops on the supermarket’s shelves when previously they could have been denied a sale due to how they looked.

It’s clearly been a winning idea because now Tesco have launched their “Perfectly Imperfect initiative” – a similar concept to ASDA’s Wonky Veg Box, except Tesco are boasting an additional 15 types of “wonky” produce including carrots and apples. And, on top of that, upmarket produce wholesales Wholegood is also expanding it’s range of organic veg in Ocado next month – adding more “wonky veg” and also launching a range of fruit boxes aimed at children.

It’s not only wonky veg boxes that supermarket’s are offering in an attempt to banish food waste. Morrisons announced late last year that they were going to donate all unsold food to local community groups after a public outrage over the amount of unsold food thrown away by British supermarkets. Other supermarkets have started to join them, with Tesco only this week announcing that they are committing themselves to have zero food waste by the December 2017. And rightly so after the latest figures show that a whopping 55,400 tonnes of food were thrown away at its supermarkets across the country.

Italy and France are even introducing laws that will make supermarkets donate their waste food to charities.

So what does this sudden charitable streak mean for the shopper? Absolutely nothing. You will still get your food (and it will even be cheaper on occasion). It might look a little wonky, but what’s the harm in that? If it means I can get my vegetables for a little cheaper, farmers will be able to make more of a living and charities will have food donated to them, I’m all for it.