Tesco to battle 'breathtaking’ level of food waste

The chief executive of Tesco is to launch a major campaign against food waste this week, saying that the scale of the problem is “breathtaking” and that every family wastes £700 a year throwing away food.

In a major move aimed at showing that Tesco can use its scale to create social change, Philip Clarke will say that it is important that the supermarket promotes a new image to its customers. Food will come in smaller sizes, and food promotions will be tailored to stop encouraging people to buy large amounts of food with a short shelf life.

David Webb: I bet they continue to sell "multi-packs" where you are forced to buy more than you want to get a lower average price.

james_n:  Forced?

David Webb: yes forced to, if you want to get the lower average price.

wesayukdotcom: this is a joke right? The supermarkets encourage waste on a prolific scale by typically pricing two items at a discount compared to one. The sooner this stops the less people are going to feel compelled to buy more than they can practically consume before the food goes bad… the supermarkets couldn't give a toss about waste they are almost as disingenuous as the banking fraternity…

fried_egg: From what I over heard two shelf stackers talking about on their departments own "unsold waste" it was far higher a level than the Sainsburys one had just left working for. They were unhappy as the waste costs come out of the potential bonus, but I guess Tesco would lose more to change their entire e2e supply schedule than control specific shelf levels. I dont believe Tesco are serious, other than "in marketing" statements on this at all.  It will be likely "do as we say, not as we do"

montpon: The usual spate of acerbic comments on here because an industry CEO draws attention to what is actually a significant problem. While my family has little food waste by purchasing sensible quantities and storing things properly, I think of my daughter who chucks out food wholesale.  If something carries a 'best before date' equal to today, out it goes.  I have told her that it is daft but she continues.  As someone else said here, if there was more focus on understanding the shelf life of food without blindly relying on date stamps, so much waste could be avoided.  A date stamp on canned goods is, in my view, just plain silly.  If you can't see if the product is 'off' when you open a can, even if 5 years old or more, then you haven't got much common sense.  Mind you, in a litigious society I can understand manufacturers for being cautious where "someone else" is always to blame.

Prompt Critical: "It may sound counter-intuitive for Tesco to help our customers reduce the amount of food they waste, because it is likely to involve reducing the volume of food they buy." No, it's not counter-intuitive; not really. Obviously the plan is to charge the customers the same amount of money - or more - for a lesser volume of food, on the specious excuse of saving the planet.

soi_cat: Tesco. Galloping ahead!

pjwholland: They can have an immediate effect and do some social good at the same time. If they introduce a discounting system based on remaining days of shelf-life… People will buy older stock first and help them in an essential component of their business i.e. stock rotation.

JohnBishop2: Mr Clarke, Tesco are good at spouting out how good they are, but acting on it is another thing. According to your Tesco propaganda, your customer service is excellent, but in reality your customer service is a joke. I also think some of your ticketing is so misleading it defies belief, one brilliant example is this one: Select Tesco Finest Meals 350g-1200g any 3 for £9, I asked for the meals at 1200g and I was told the following. That the sizes on the tickets were only *generic, a fitting statement for Tesco’s quality of service and there are many more tickets on a similar theme. Now I come to your latest scam, sorry your battle against waste, let’s see how you are going to do this. You will have no problem in reducing the weight of the food in your packaging, but I very much doubt that the price will decrease at all , more likely to increase. So this get rid of waste is a great idea for increased profits for Tesco and in no way will it benefit the customers. *Generic a grammatical mood used to make generalized statements or a pathetic get out for Tesco and its Staff.    

noahpetshop: Aye, right! So no more 3 for 2, or BOGOFs then !?

bob228: A Best BEFORE DATE. That is just an advisory. The food can be stored pretty much indefinably as long as the tin etc. is undamaged. Flavour or taste may decline i.e. crisps may become soft   What Tesco’s mean is they can increase their margins by selling you smaller packs.

awareness: I think Mr Clarke  ought be very careful, because if he goes on like this, accusing people of throwing away food to the amount of £700 a year and believes he can identify his own customers for apparently doing this and starts to put into practice a scheme to try to prevent it' it could well backfire badly.  His customer base will start to move to other grocery chains who are already starting to devise schemes to try to hit or match Tesco's.

petethai: So how about getting rid of 'best before' dates? Or at least making them more realistic.

nicky6:  People have sunk to the level of dumb beasts…no actually worse,  if they can't decide for themselves if a product has gone off.

bogwart: That would be HMG/EU.  Nothing to do with the supermarkets.

AdAstra100: This is starting to wreak of Statism and will no doubt end up with far higher prices for food because is being sold in much smaller quantities. It may work for Tesco, and I am a shareholder, but will not be good for the average mature consumer who is quite capable of managing of their food purchasing through a better working knowledge of mental, arithmetic, enough confidence in their own sight, smell and taste senses to see through the State implemented confusion of date marking and savvy enough to cook with leftovers and use a freezer. The Nanny State and gender led education system however has raised at least two generations who have very few of the above life skills and probably do actually throw away at least 650 of the pounds of the £700 food waste attributed to me. Strange how someone with my 68 year old tiring eyes can still take time to read the £/Kg information on two for one offers to know what is a bargain but younger eyes cannot or don't want to bother.

bob228: Some of the 2 for 1 etc offers are not even cheaper. I suspect you unlike younger people buy in apropriate quantities and no what the labels mean and no how to use left over food Some daft poster believe they should be able to buy bread by the slice to avoid waste. Why anyone throws bread out beats me as there is zero need to waste bread

wilf: Brought up at a time of food shortages and rationing my parents always made sure that i was fed enough, never allowed to leave much on the plate and food was not wasted. I hate to discard any food and ensure that if it is edible it gets used up even if the "sell by" date has been passed.       In what has become a "throw away" society there seems no reason why food should be regarded differently to any other purchased commodity.

RogerSavage: The irony inherent in Tesco's supposed 'helping society' stance is as stomach churning as it is a complete misnomer. 1) As others have noted, offering food in smaller quantities is about profit, nothing else.  Absolutely NOTHING else. 2) Tesco waste vast quantities of food because, rather than sell food off at a reduced price or give it away for free at the end of the day, they will throw it away.  This is fact and has been confirmed to me by people that work at Tesco.  I can understand this from a business perspective, but not from a company purporting to be 'down with society' and all about reducing food waste.  They would be announcing where and when they would be giving free food away. 3) Their failure to vet their suppliers correctly resulted in people throwing away vast amount of products found/suspected to be horse, not beef.   So they added yet more to the mountain of waste directly attributable to Tesco.   The only interest Tesco has for it's suppliers is to get the best possible price out of them, often by making it hardly worth their while to supply Tesco.  This potentially leads them to (wrongly, admittedly) cut corners and creates scandals such as the horse meat one. Tesco is a business and in terms of making a profit is very good.  It does not, at any level, want to help society.  It wants to help itself.  As a business model, that's fine but throwing in all this 'let's help society' propaganda just shows the level of dishonesty projected to the public.

stanilic: The trouble is that from a consumer perspective Tesco has a strong track record of speaking with a forked tongue. In Tesco terms the above means that food will be sold in smaller amounts at higher prices with a restricted availability. Why don't we just bring back rationing? So much fairer and it did create greater social solidarity. 

politicallyincorrect: I wonder if the price will be reduced to match the smaller sizes? Lots of products seem to be reduced in weight while the price remains the same so that we thing we are getting the same value.

djugashvili: I never waste any food. Old bread becomes toast. I don't peel potaotoes. I eat everything I buy.  Old / Sour milk makes gratin dauphinoise  etc.   I don't buy convenience food, I don't buy tinned food.  I use my local butcher and won't touch supermarket meat with a bargepole. Why / How is food wasted ?   Date stamps are a joke - just ignore them.

Torsten_Smithwick: So where do you source your chopped tomato from?

bogwart: Whole tomatoes, at a wild guess.