UK supply chains 'wasting 4.2m tonnes of food'

10 May 2021

UK food supply chain operators should work with redistribution partners to reduce the millions of tonnes of food wasted across the UK supply chain.

According to IGD, it is estimated that 4.2m tonnes of food is lost or wasted across the UK food supply chain, with 1.5m tonnes wasted in manufacturing.

In a guide it argued that apart from its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, driving efficient supply chains and reducing waste should be a priority for companies as there is a compelling business case.

The Maximising food surplus redistribution guide said according to estimates, every £1 invested in reducing food waste, including working with a redistribution partner, generates an average return of £14.

Food waste also accounts for 8% of global greenhouse emissions, while 16% of adults across England, Wales and Northern Ireland experience food insecurity, the guide said.

Surplus food could include work in progress ingredients left over at the end of production runs, ingredients at the end of their life (but not food past its use by date), overproduction due to changes in demand, slow moving or delisted lines, product labelling errors, damaged packaging, food that does not meet certain parameters.

The guide is aimed at helping food supply chain operators reduce this food waste, much of which is still safe to eat, by redistributing it.

Redistribution covers a range of channels including commercial outlets, charities and community groups.

The guide said: “Even the most efficient manufacturing operations generate surplus food that has not been sold to a primary customer. Surplus can include part packed and fully packed finished products, work in progress materials and food ingredients, much of which will still be safe for human consumption.”

According to IGD, partnering with a redistribution organisation can result in significant cost savings through the identification of process efficiencies and better management of surplus and waste streams. Many redistribution organisations can access funding to help businesses identify opportunities to redistributing surplus food.

“Food surplus redistribution avoids waste disposal costs and there is the opportunity to generate a financial return from commercial partners,” the guide said. “Redistributing surplus food is an opportunity to drive colleague engagement and build stronger relationships with local communities.”

Food waste reduction and food surplus redistribution can have a positive impact on brand reputation, it adds.

Redistribution partners can be commercial, paying a fee for surplus products and selling them on heavily discounted, or charities or community organisations, which use the surplus to support service users.

Some charities act as a wholesaler and distribute the products to front line charity and community organisations. Others manage the full end-to-end process.

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