Proving food-waste reduction is saving money for Asda's customers

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Shoppers look to retailers to help them tackle food waste

No doubt about it, the amount of food we squander is a hot topic in fresh produce and the wider food sector as the whole supply chain and consumers themselves seek to eliminate waste. Produce Business UK looks at what Asda has done and how it quantifies its work in terms of savings to its shoppers 

Supermarket retailer Asda claimed earlier this week that it has become the first UK supermarket chain to confirm how much its customers have saved after launching its campaign to tackle food waste. 

Working in partnership with the University of Leeds, the Yorkshire-based retailer revealed at a parliamentary reception hosted by former food and environment minister and Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn MP, that its customers’ bank balances were, on average, £57 better off a year as they committed to cutting food waste in their own homes.

Altering actions

The positive customer behaviour change was driven by a series of actions developed in-line with its customer insight, combined with research conducted by the university.

The multi-channel campaign focused on providing customers with advice on everything from food storage and labelling, to creative recipe inspiration for leftovers. Meanwhile, in-store events encouraged customers to pledge to make changes in their own homes. And these changes appear to be happening; 81% of customers said they planned to follow the advice provided by Asda and 2million of them are making changes in their homes, saving £57 in the process.

Retail responsibility 

Asda’s chief customer officer, Andy Murray, is quite clear where a chunk of the obligation on food waste lies. “As a major food retailer, we have a responsibility and the ability to bring about large scale change when it comes to tackling food waste,” he says. “By partnering with the University of Leeds, the team has been able to take our insight and really explore this area, meaning that we now have a greater understanding of customer attitude and behaviour, helping shape the way we communicate with our customers and ultimately the way we do business.”

Murray is adamant that the retailer’s commitment to food-waste reduction is one that is on-going. “While helping our customers live more sustainably is a step in the right direction, we understand the importance of addressing this issue throughout our entire supply chain. This is just one of many initiatives we are undertaking as we aim to tackle the issue in collaboration with everyone from our customers and suppliers, to our colleagues’ in-store.”

Dr Richard Swannell, director of the government’s waste and resources action programme, WRAP welcomed Asda’s work saying he would like to “encourage more of this type of work to ensure food waste reduction continues.”

Meanwhile, University of Leeds professor, William Young, says of the project: “Not only have we come away with real, measurable insight from shoppers but we’ve also seen the direct correlation between our recommended actions and tangible behavioural change. While our formal partnership [with Asda] is coming to a close, the legacy of this project will certainly live on in the benefits passed to customers and of course the environment.”

Green Britain Index 

The results of the partnership between Asda and the University of Leeds coincides with the publication of Asda’s 2016 Green Britain Index – a study conducted by the supermarket to understand the views of 20,000 customers from its Everyday Experts panel.

The research, which focused on the importance of matters surrounding food waste and sustainability, found that 93% of Asda customers care about “being green”. Furthermore, 85% say they look to retailers to help them reduce food waste at home, while 72% admit they have stopped buying a product altogether because they found it would often go to waste. 

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