In May 2013 Tesco set out an ambitious goal to lead in reducing food waste. Through substantial stakeholder engagement, Tesco found that there was limited information on exactly where food waste arises throughout global supply chains. Although the UN FAO had published a range of information relating to food losses during production, high level information had not yet been applied to a retail supply chain.  As a consequence, Tesco engaged Anthesis (then trading as Best Foot Forward) to work with them and their suppliers to develop the Farm to Fork metric for 25 of their most frequently purchased products.

By combining gathered data with UK WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) derived information on the levels of waste in the home, we were able to calculate a food waste “footprint” and identify waste “hotspots” all the way through the value chain.  This data has been put to great use with Tesco subsequently developing tailored action plans for each product, includingthe termination of multi-buy offers on large bags of salads and building more accurate IT systems for ordering and planning bakery products.  With respect to grapes, it was calculated that 17% of production is wasted by the consumer so Tesco has focused on developing strategies to get fresher produce from their suppliers and making improvements in storage advice on packaging. Our analysis, and the resultant action plans, were presented as infographics in Tesco’s October 2013 half year update.

As the first UK retailer to publish food waste data about its own operations, Tesco was successful in raising the profile of this important issue. The release of our analysis was widely reported in the media, including headlines in the Daily Mail and the Times, and widespread coverage on the BBC, for example Newsnight. A number of leading campaigners, such as WRAP, Fareshare, Feeding the 5000 and Wastewatch, also joined the debate and welcomed our transparency on the issue.

The Farm to Fork metric is an industry first that has set the benchmark for addressing food waste in a business value chain. Since this information was published, other retailers have pledged to work with the BRC (British Retail Consortium) and publish data about their own operational food waste.