Food purchasers should take ‘broader view’ to cut waste

Gurjit Degun
13 November 2013

Procurement professionals in the food retail sector need to take a broader view in how their buying decisions are impacting the supply chain if they are to be more sustainable.

That’s according to Hayley Baines-Buffery, head of sustainable business at Bio Regional, who was speaking to SM at the launch of a report looking to achieve zero food waste to landfill by 2020.

Vision 2020: UK Roadmap to Zero Food Waste to Landfill aims to save the UK more than £17 billion a year by 2020 through the reduction of food waste by households, businesses and the public sector. It has been produced by ReFood, with support from BioRegional.

The study called for greater collaboration at every stage of the supply chain and between key stakeholders to “accelerate the adoption of best practice, improve waste prevention and maximise the value of food waste as a resource”.

Baines-Buffery encouraged professionals to look at their buying decisions and the impact it could be having on food waste outside their organisation.

She used the example of food retailers’ requirements for the perfect fruit and vegetables being “above and beyond” that of EU standards, meaning a lot of food goes to waste. But last year Waitrose successfully sold ‘ugly fruits’ after a poor harvest.

“So that’s something specifically procurement professionals in the food retail sector need to better understand – how are the standards we’re setting impacting agriculture? I think there is growing understanding of that but I think a broader education is needed across the procurement sector, and then equally downstream.

“If you’re linking procurement to merchandising, what are the offers they’re putting in? Buy one get one free is pushing the problem onto the consumer, they’ll end up buying more than they need and they end up wasting it.

“I know it’s a huge challenge but taking that broader view of the impact that they have is very important.”

Philip Simpson, ReFood commercial director, added: “Procurement professionals have a key part to play. Fundamentally they are the people who will place the business with the most appropriate outlet and the most appropriate partner.”

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