How can a food retailer help reduce food waste?

In an effort to keep edible food in the food system, the Co-op is selling food which although beyond its best before date, is safe to eat.


In the United Kingdom, 4.2 million tonnes of consumable food is thrown away each year, equal to approximately 24 meals a month per family and worth £13bn. This has led to calls for a concerted effort across retailers, manufacturers, governments and consumers to tackle this significant source of waste.

Use by versus best before

For some consumers, food advice terms may be confusing. Food with a “use by” date label should not be sold, redistributed or consumed after the date has passed. This typically applies to food that is highly perishable, such as fresh fish, meat and poultry, which can be dangerous to eat. “Best before” labelled food may be sold, distributed and consumed after the date has passed, although it might not taste exactly as the manufacturer intended.

Cheap and edible

In a bold move that complies with food safety standards, 125 Co-op stores in East Anglia will sell dried foods and tinned products for just 10p in a bid to cut food waste. The co-op has found that the 10p items are sold within hours of being reduced, saving an estimated 50,000 items a year from being thrown away.

Don’t be a binner, have it for dinner

The initiative complements many of the co-ops other activities to reduce waste in its business and lessen its impact on the environment. It has also reduced a new “reduced to clear” policy which offers greater discounts earlier in the day to clear out foods nearing their use-by dates.

This story shows how Co-op supports Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, specifically Target 12.3: “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”.

About Co-op

The Co-operative Group, trading as The Co-op, is a British consumer co-operative with a diverse family of retail businesses including food retail; electrical retail; financial services; insurance services; legal services and funeralcare, with in excess of 4,200 locations. It is the largest consumer co-operative in the UK and owned by more than 4 million active members.

Learn more about Co-op.

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