Co-op Youghurt 1

Source: The Co-op

It aims to fight the 42,000 tonnes of edible yoghurt thrown out by UK homes each year

The Co-op has claimed an industry first in scrapping use by dates on all own-brand yoghurts.

In a move that aims to fight the 42,000 tonnes of edible yoghurt thrown out by UK homes each year, best before dates will now replace use by guidance across its entire range.

Research from Wrap showed 50% of yoghurts are chucked away in unopened packs, with 70% of wasted yoghurt being thrown out due to it ‘not being used in time’.

Yoghurts traditionally carry use by dates as a link to food safety and a guide for when shoppers should consume the product. Best before, however, refers to quality and often allows for the food to be eaten after that date.

Co-op’s new approach aims to encourage shoppers to check the quality of the product and use visual cues to establish the suitability to consume.

“Yoghurt can be safe to eat if stored unopened in a fridge after the date mark shown, so we have made the move to best before dates to help reduce food waste,” said Co-op head of food technical Nick Cornwell. “The acidity of yoghurt acts as a natural defence and we’d encourage shoppers to use their judgement on the quality of their yoghurt if it is past the best before date.”

The convenience retailer also removed date labels on several fresh produce lines last year as part of an ongoing trial, and offers on-pack storage advice on a number of its ranges to help cut waste. It also helps to combat its own in-store food waste by donating and redistributing surplus food through its Food Share programme.

“Controlling food waste is not only beneficial for managing household budgets, it also has an environmental benefit and will ultimately help reduce carbon emissions,” Cornwell continued. “We encourage more retailers and brands to review their on-pack guidance and make the switch to best before dates for yoghurts.”

Wrap director of collaboration and change Catherine David said: “We’re delighted to see Co-op making this change to its entire yoghurt range, as we know that the date label on yoghurt is a fundamental reason that it is wasted at home. Wasting food feeds climate change and costs money.

“Applying a best before date helps give people the confidence to use their judgement to eat beyond a best before date and use more of the yoghurt they buy – protecting the planet and their pockets.”

A similar move was made by Morrisons earlier this year when it became the first supermarket to scrap use by dates on its own brand milk. It wanted to encourage customers to use a “sniff test” to judge if a product had gone off instead.

Co-op will introduce best before dates to its own-brand yogurts from May and will have the full range amended by October 2022.