Salling Group leads Danish retailers to reduce food waste
Kat Heinrich
15 August 2018

Supermarkets worldwide are taking action to reduce food waste. Examples include:

Salling Group is leading the change in Denmark. The group runs several supermarket chains across the country. Since 2014, they have reduced their food waste by 27.7 percent. So what steps have they taken to achieve these results? And how are they measuring their progress? I interviewed Hanne Stendys, Corporate Social Responsibility specialist at Salling Group, to find out.

“Reducing food waste will benefit your bottom line, reputation, the climate and environment.

– Hanne Stendys, Corporate Social Responsibility specialist at Salling Group 

Why is Salling Group interested in reducing their food waste?

Food waste has always been a focus area since it obviously impacts the bottom line negatively. So originally and still for economic reasons, but now also for ethical and sustainability reasons.

What are the main sources of food waste at a supermarket?

By far fruit and vegetables, which account for more than half the waste. This is followed by bakery (own production), bread & cookies, fresh meat and dairy

Do you have a target for reducing food waste?

Salling Group has set a target of 50 percent reduction by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. We publish our food waste figures. This provides transparency and helps us to focus our efforts.

Graph: Actual versus target food waste volumes (tonnes) across Saling Group. Extracted from CSR Report 2017.

What initiatives are you taking to reduce food waste?

Our initiatives include:

  • Optimisation of automatic replenishment systems

  • Optimisation of production systems (bakery, fresh meat, deli)

  • Less promotions of “buy x for the price of y”

  • Smaller packages

  • Less content

  • Mark down of products close to the “best before” or “expiry” date

  • Mark down of dented or “ugly” fruits and vegetables etc.

Some food that is still safe and edible, but at risk of becoming waste, is donated to the Danish Food Bank, or the Danish Church Aid´s food waste supermarkets (Wefood) where the food is sold at half price. These supermarkets are run by volunteers. The organisation uses the profit to help hunger struck areas in developing countries.

We have also developed an app that tells users where to find marked down food products – and not only in our own stores. Other retail stores are free to upload products to the app as well.

Image: Food waste app ‘Mad Skal Spises’ developed by Salling Group to help users find discounted food that is close to expiry or best before.

What results for food waste reduction have been achieved to date?

Since 2014, we have reduced our food waste from 42,826 tonnes down 30,963 tonnes. This is a 27.7 percent reduction.

How do you measure your food waste?

We have developed an in-house method for measuring food waste. We measure waste across 25 main product categories. To estimate waste volumes, we multiply the number of units wasted (or scrapped) by the unit net weight. For products where we don’t have unit weight data, we use an average value from other products in the same product line. Large, traceable food donations to food banks or similar are deducted from our total waste volumes. We also measure volumes of food given away for animal feed. However, these volumes are not deducted from our total waste because they are not used for their intended purpose (human consumption).

What initiatives are planned for further food waste reduction?

We have just initiated a food waste partnership with some of our suppliers in which all partners have committed themselves to the UN Sustainable Development Goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.  Under this commitment, they must publish their numbers annually (numbers must be verified by a third-party).

To support this initiative we have created a website, where the results of their measurements will be published. The site also invites other suppliers, producers and competitors to join the partnership, upload their logo and publicly report their food waste on the same conditions as the partners of the initiative. Customers/households for their part are invited to use the site to share ideas and good advice and to seek advice. We have wanted to start a kind of national movement. We call it “Danmark mod Madspil” (Denmark against Food Waste), and it was launched today in all media in Denmark. The movement is supported by the two NGO´s the Danish Food Bank and  Stop Wasting Food.

Do you have any advice for other supermarkets who are interested in reducing food waste?

Reducing food waste will benefit your bottom line, reputation, the climate and environment. For a start, I would advise that supermarkets get acquainted with the Food Loss and Waste Standard / Protocol. They can decide what and how to measure, find out what causes the food waste, get into dialogue with customers and suppliers and then implement initiatives to reduce food waste.

Beyond Food Waste

Salling Group’s story demonstrates that supermarkets can significantly reduce food waste across their store operations. Making a public commitment to cut waste volumes and transparent reporting demonstrates their leadership on this issue. It also helps focus their efforts and drive performance.

Besides cutting waste in store, supermarkets can influence waste volumes up and down the supply chain – at farms and in homes. This is where most food waste is generated. Salling Group’s suppliers and producers are encouraged to commit to reducing food waste at their end of the supply chain by 50 percent by 2030. This is where further gains can be made.

We look forward to following this story and sharing further insights. Don’t miss our food waste case studies and interviews. Sign up to our mailing list now.

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