Doing it like Aldi: How to reduce food waste

As part of the UK-wide movement to reduce food waste, supermarket company, Aldi, teamed up with surplus food app Too Good To Go for a five-week trial in August 2022. Taking place across seven Aldi stores in north-east England, the trial allowed customers to purchase ‘Magic Bags’ of damaged groceries via the Too Good To Go app and collect them in-store.

The bags sold for £3.30 contained at least £10 worth of groceries nearing their use-by date or that looked wonky/bruised. The point was that the customers would not know what was inside the bag when they picked them up.

Aldi is one of the UK’s most affordable grocery chains and was rated UK’s Cheapest Supermarket in 2022. Thus, the new campaign supports the brand’s ongoing commitment to assuring affordable groceries for every family.

We at Waste2ES have always applauded the marvellous work that Too Good To Go does. They have saved over half a million bags of usable produce from waste since its inception, and the tie-up with Aldi only served to popularise the app among a bigger audience.

Food waste in the UK: A major challenge

It is estimated that around 9.5 million tons of food get wasted in the UK every year. Of this, supermarkets throw away thousands of pounds worth of food because it looks unattractive or is past the official sell-by date, even though it is perfectly safe to eat. Data also shows that the average family of four can save around £60 a month by reducing food waste. The Aldi and Too Good To Go trial aims to educate the UK public about using more of the food they buy, even if it looks wonky while taking advantage of substantial cost savings.

Aldi’s consistent efforts to reduce food waste

This is not Aldi’s first foray into food waste reduction. In 2019, the supermarket partnered with Neighbourly to donate surplus produce, flowers and food to charities and community organisations. And in 2018, they offered half-price on products that had reached the last day of their shelf life, thus providing better value for money while also saving food.

The new trial is part of Aldi’s commitment to reduce its food waste by 20% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. Previously, Aldi has also extended support to WRAP’s UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, which educates businesses about the importance of cutting down food wastage.

With reference to the initiative, Aldi’s corporate responsibility director Liz Fox said: “Tackling food waste has never been more important, both for the sake of the planet and to support people looking for the best possible value on their groceries. This trial will show us whether Too Good To Go can help us make better use of food that is nearing the end of its life while also giving customers the chance to enjoy our products at even more amazing prices than usual.”

Other brands following suit

Other major supermarkets like Sainsbury, Waitrose, and Tesco have also invested in ways to reduce food waste. In fact, in 2020, they joined The Consumer Goods Forum-led Coalition of Action on Food Waste, aiming to halve the per capita global food loss by 2030.

Top ways to reduce food waste for grocery retailers

In addition to initiatives like these, there are several easy steps that grocers and food manufacturers of all sizes can take to reduce wastage at different stages along the supply chain. These include:

1. Reducing wasteful practices

Supermarkets can take inspiration from the new Aldi scheme (as well as from similar schemes launched by Asda and Morrisons in 2018) and start selling produce that may look ‘wonky’ but is actually perfectly edible.

Another big contributor to waste is the difference between the ‘sell-by’ and the ‘use-by’ date on food labels – modifying this would enable much more food to be consumed when fresh rather than discarded for no good reason and a number of supermarkets are already removing these for fruit and vegetables. Finally, when food is a little past peak freshness, it can be donated to charities.

2. Upcycling

Another effective way to use wonky-looking produce is by turning it into premium health food items. Overripe fruits, for instance, can be turned into juices or healthy dried snacks. These can be sold in a separate ‘upcycled’ aisle to attract healthy eaters. It is an additional source of profit and cuts down on waste.

3. Better inventory management

Adopting a strategic approach to inventory tracking and replenishment will help retailers stay well-supplied all year round without overstocking. Several software tools allow retailers to view all their orders at a glance so that goods can be displayed for sale in order of freshness, and new orders can be placed only when supplies are running low.

4. Turning food waste into power

Modern technology allows food waste to be turned into gas and electricity through anaerobic digestion. Restaurants and groceries can hand in their organic waste in large volumes, which is then put into the digester for the production of methane and which is then used to generate energy.

5. Working directly with farmers

As the people directly tending to produce, farmers can advise supermarkets on harvest cycles and crop cultivation strategies that ensure smooth year-round supplies while minimising waste and environmental impact.

Over to you

With grocers like Aldi taking massive steps to mitigate food waste management, it only makes sense for other such businesses to work closely with their suppliers and intermediaries in the distribution change and change sustainable eating and purchasing habits at large.

Waste2ES is on a mission to decentralise food waste treatment, cut out unnecessary transport, create energy from food waste onsite, and target Net Zero – all while making a profit. To find out more about our systems, please contact us.

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