The Wasted Opportunities report is the first stage of the WI’s Food Matters campaign which was launched after a resolution on food waste and food poverty was passed at the 2016 Annual Meeting. While there has been much progress in recent years to tackle the issue of food waste, our report found that there is more that supermarkets can do to drive progress.
We found practices that can lead to overbuying, date labels that cause confusion, and wonky fruit and veg ranges that simply aren’t available on the supermarket shelves. The report highlights a number of areas where supermarkets can make positive improvements to help tackle food waste up and down the food supply chain.
With over 5000 WI members contributing to the two surveys on which the report is based, we developed a strong sense of the food waste landscape all the way from Durham to Dorset! Our aim was to establish whether supermarket practices were contributing to the millions of tonnes of food wasted every single year, and the results we received were startling.
WI members found that in the supermarkets they surveyed, 75% still offered multi-buys on fresh produce. These multi-buy offers could encourage customers to buy larger quantities of food than they might do otherwise, and can lead to food waste in the home. Members reported disparities in ‘once opened, use within’ guidance given on jars and packaging. They found that 25% of own-brand products had a shorter ‘once-opened use within’ life than equivalent branded products. It has been estimated that extending the life of a product by just one day could cut down on 250,000 tonnes of food waste.
Other key findings include:
- Members want to buy products in quantities convenient to them; 91% of members expressed a preference to a price reduction over a multi-buy offer. 84% of members said they would prefer to buy products loose than in a multipack.
- Members were confused about ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ dates. Only 45% of members understood that best before dates were a marker of food quality. 26% of respondents didn’t realise that use-by dates were a marker of food safety.
- 90% of WI members said they’d be happy to buy fruit or veg which was blemished or misshapen, yet only 29% of stores had a ‘wonky range’ and if they did have one, the vast majority (68%) only stocked one or two products.
The Manifesto calls for action on the following areas;
- Extending the product life of foods in the home
- Fully utilising the farm crop
- Supermarket transparency on food waste
Many WIs will be visiting their local stores this weekend, and meeting with the supermarket manager. Do remember to take along the WIs Food Waste Manifesto to show how supermarkets can help reduce household and supply chain food waste by committing to the recommendations in the Manifesto.
Ideally we want supermarket managers to pass on the Manifesto to their supermarket head offices so that we can really put the pressure on retailers to make positive change to help tackle food waste. To get the most out of your meeting, the NFWI has produced a discussion guide for WIs to help steer the meeting. This can be found on our Food Matters campaign page here.
Once you’ve managed to set up a meeting with your local supermarket manager, you might want to think about ways of bringing some of the issue we’ve highlighted in our report to life with your supermarket manager.
You could think about:
- Collating examples of confusing labelling, multi-packs and multi-buys offers with you, to take with you to the meeting to highlight there and then what needs to change
- You could get together as a WI ahead of the meeting to create Artivism, to draw attention to the campaign, drawing inspiration from artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s portraits made of vegetables. Small scale collages or huge Art Attack style pictures, perhaps putting to use those ‘wonky waste vegetables’ to create a piece. Take photos of the WI group with the supermarket manager or invite the local media to take the photos for you.
For a copy of the campaign action pack which has more information about the campaign and how you can get involved, please see here.
A copy of the report can be found on the WI website here.
Too late to take part this weekend?
Don’t worry! You can arrange to meet your local supermarket manager at any time, not just during the weekend of action. What’s most important is that supermarkets hear that their customers want them to take action.
For further information regarding the report findings or the NFWI’s Food Matters campaign, please contact the Public Affairs Department.