Mike Coupe

There are no villains. That was the promise made by Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands on Monday as entrepeneurs, campaigners, celebrity chefs, and a lone supermarket CEO sat down to debate food waste. It was a difficult promise to keep.

As Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe fought off attacks from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Tristram Stuart, the CEO looked increasingly like the pantomime baddie. Though he outlined some of Sainsbury’s progress on redistribution, including its recent decision to publish food waste figures, as well as the complexity of meeting food supply and demand, he spent far more time in defensive mode (while food manufacturers were once again notable by their absence).

And frustratingly, there were times when Coupe made matters worse. He kept insisting picky consumers were to blame (which is never a good idea), and as we’ve seen with Tesco’s wonky veg scheme, a simple regrading by price has increased yields and thus reduced waste - and gone down a storm with shoppers.

By the end of the night even Stuart “felt sorry” for Coupe, surely the last thing Sainsbury’s hoped for when it sponsored the campaign.