Brief description of the dive:

  • 90% of grocery retailers believe reducing food waste is key to meeting their corporate sustainability goals, but the industry is being held back by a piecemeal approach to reducing unsold food. survey results published on Wednesday by Coresight Research.
  • More than half of the grocery retailers (51%) who participated in the study said they did not have the technology they needed to prioritize food waste reduction, and an even larger proportion (52%) said they lacked management support to do so.
  • Grocers disagree on how they identify and deal with food waste, although many retailers say they plan to improve their handling of this problem over the next few years.


While Coresight’s finding that a large proportion of food retailers surveyed lack tools to help them reduce food waste may be a warning sign, the study also suggests that the food industry is taking active steps to mitigate the problem.

Eighty-four percent of respondents to a Coresight survey last October of 219 North American grocers plan to invest in technology over the next two years to help them cut down on the amount of food they can’t eat. sell or otherwise write off.

However, retailers interpret the concept of food waste differently: the largest proportion (42%) define it as unsold goods, and another 28% use the term to refer to food sent to landfill. The rest consider food waste products that are lost in shrinkage or cannot be sold at full price.

Survey respondents indicated that multiple departments are responsible for food waste management, with store operations at the top of the list, followed by purchasing/strategic sourcing and supply chain. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said individual stores were most responsible for the cost of food waste, with just under a quarter citing a corporate office.

Participants also said they find alternative uses for the vast majority of the food they don’t sell, and only about 15% of those foods end up in landfills. Nearly a quarter (23.1%) of unsold food goes to donations, while just under 11% is used to prepare prepared meals.

Respondents indicated that they see a number of areas where they can reduce the rejection of unsold food. Topping the list is the use of discounts to help sell products before their expiration date. Retailers also noted that they are looking at better demand forecasting and expanding their ability to track date codes or freshness as areas where they can make improvements.

Interviews conducted by Coresight with retailers have shown that inaccurate demand forecasting plays a particularly large role in the production of food waste. The researchers found that prepared foods are a significant source of food waste, with overproduction and over-ordering accounting for more than a third of the foods that are thrown away by retailers.

Grocers are limited in their ability to control food waste on their own. According to the Food Industry Association, consumers and businesses waste 25% to 40% of the food that is grown, processed, and transported in the United States each year.

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