Predictably, consumers are now seeking greater value for money at every turn, with many looking to cut their weekly food budgets. Supermarkets have rapidly responded by offering value-driven price deals, helping to maintain and even increase sales in the downturn. A good example of this is Sainsbury's Switch and Save, which boosted January sales of its Basics range by 60%, year-on-year.
Effective supply chain management is key to building capacity for competing on price in this way. In particular, identifying ways to reduce raw material use, transport and energy can help businesses secure cost savings that can then be passed on through the supply chain and eventually to consumers, too.
Estimates have suggested that the retail sector in the UK could save as much as £1.3bn by taking action that is either no cost or offers a short payback period of one year or less. Practical steps include packaging optimisation, which can help reduce raw material use plus minimise transport and storage requirements too. Reducing the size of a standard cereal box by 18% - or the equivalent of a small matchbox - can save 18 tonnes of raw material, 50 tonnes of CO2 and take 10 vehicles off the road for every million packets sold.
Collaboration and collective action throughout the supply chain are crucial to efforts to cut waste. The Wrap-led Courtauld Commitment has this year set an additional objective to help consumers save £370m by minimising food waste through our Love Food Hate Waste campaign. Householders are also being encouraged to reduce food waste by Morrisons' Great Taste Less Waste campaign, and M&S's Plan A website, which offers menu ideas for using leftovers. Brand loyalty stands to gain substantially from initiatives such as these. Asda's recent ad campaign shows how it is saving millions of pounds by eliminating unnecessary waste, in turn lowering in-store prices and benefiting the environment.
The rising importance of environmental commitments in the industry will pay dividends to the environment, industry and consumer for years.
Richard Swannell is director of retail at Wrap (Waste & Resources Action Programme).