Waitrose Leatherhead store

Waitrose fell behind the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi for its food waste reduction efforts

Waitrose has been rated the worst supermarket for food waste reduction efforts by a food waste campaign group.

Feedback Global rated food waste reduction practices at Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl, Asda, Morrisons, Iceland, Co-op and M&S on key areas of their efforts.

They were judged on how they measure and publish food waste data and adopt targets to cut waste, what action they take to ensure edible surplus food reaches people in need or is made into animal feed, and what steps they take to avoid edible food being used to produce bio-gas instead of being eaten.

Waitrose received a rating of eight out of 32, and was criticised by the organisation for its lack of efforts to turn surplus food into animal feed in the ranking. Tesco, meanwhile, came up top with a score of 21.

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The rating noted Tesco was the first supermarket to publish third party audited food waste data and first to sign up to the Sustainable Development Goal of halving food waste from farm to fork by 2030. It also noted Tesco significantly increased the quantity of food it redistributed to people in need through donating almost 8,000 tonnes of food in 2017, a 40% increase compared to the previous year.

Tesco has committed to extending its transparency around surplus food and food waste in its supply chain, and is working to help its suppliers reduce food waste through initiatives such as marketing seasonal produce and creating a food waste hotline for suppliers and whole crop purchasing. It also ditched best before dates on 70 packed fruit & veg lines in a bid to cut food waste at home and in store.

The rating comes one month after Tesco revealed it reached 64% of its target to eliminate food waste from its UK operation by the end of 2017/18, to a great deal of criticism from food waste campaigners.

The measurements also revealed that almost 20,000 tonnes of food was used to produce bio-gas rather than feed people in 2017.

Feedback Global criticised the retail industry as a whole for its lack of urgency when it came to reducing food waste, offering multibuys, best before labels and “failing to get to grips with their waste”.

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“Our research has revealed that despite leadership from a few retailers, many lag behind on the most basic steps to further their food waste reduction, such as publishing transparent data and converting food surplus to animal feed.”

A Waitrose spokeswoman said: “The report is not a reflection of our work on food waste. For example, we’ve been scored on the amount of food donated through a 25-shop trial, missing out all the food that hundreds of other Waitrose shops give to local good causes.”

The upmarket retailer is referring to its trial of the FareShare Go food redistribution app at 25 stores, which is now being rolled out to all its supermarkets by the end of the year. Through this, the stores input details of available food and charities will then receive an alert regarding which items are ready for collection. Since the beginning of the trial in January, Waitrose has donated an equivalent of almost 70,000 meals to more than 100 charities. 

The spokeswoman added: “We’ve cut our food waste by 31% since 2014, which is not reflected in the report, and we have pioneered industry-leading work with our farmers and suppliers for the last decade or more, for example linking our dairy supply chain to our beef supply chain so unwanted male dairy calves can be sold as ethical veal. If we were contacted when this report was researched we could have corrected these inaccuracies. We’ll be in touch to help them understand our ongoing work.”

The Grocer has taken its own steps to help reduce food waste. The launch of our petition two years ago, Waste Not Want Not, to persuade the government to help fund the cost of redistributing more edible surplus food to charity received 16,299 signatures. The government responded by saying it does not want to see food go to waste and recognises that “waste, even in an efficient food system, does arise and has work underway to get surplus edible food to those in need”.