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Focus on food waste

Find out what the food and grocery industry is doing to put the focus on food waste

About this article

  • Published

    14 Jul 2015

It is widely recognised that food waste, in all its guises, poses very significant environmental and economic challenges for the whole food system. Waste occurs across the entire food chain, from farm to household.

There have been significant industry achievements in recent years regarding waste. Here are just a few:

  • IGD’s Supply Chain Waste programme has led collaborative initiatives to develop and implement best practices on reducing waste in the supply chain. Find out more
  • Campaigns such as WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste have contributed to a 1.1m tonne reduction in avoidable household food waste between 2007 and 2012
  • Redistribution programmes continue to gather pace across industry. Find out more

Household waste

Research by WRAP estimates approximately 7 million tonnes1 of food and drink waste is generated at the household level. This represents just less than half the 15m tonnes of food waste generated across the entire UK food supply chain.

This level of waste costs UK households an average of £700 per annum. It also imposes significant costs on the whole supply chain. All of this wasted food and drink has embedded carbon and water; it’s been grown, procured, processed, supplied, shipped, delivered, merchandised and sold – all to no positive end use.

Industry effort

The ongoing challenge for industry is to develop the most effective means of reducing total food waste, and especially household food waste. Much effort has focused on targeting consumers and encouraging them to take action in their homes, and this has delivered some benefit.

Reducing costs as a motivator

IGD’s Shopper Vista research indicates that price remains the number one shopper priority when they are purchasing food and groceries. Reducing household food waste can clearly help shoppers reduce their costs, and this is increasingly being focused on as an area of opportunity for the food and grocery industry.

Other research2 seeks to broaden this debate, and suggests that focusing solely on the behaviours of consumers in their home has significant limitations. It concludes that patterns of household consumption and waste are shaped by forces outside of the home, so while behaviour change within the home is vital to underpin reductions in household food waste, this approach will not be enough on its own.

Support from across the food chain

It is increasingly recognised that food waste is a systemic problem with responsibility distributed throughout the food chain, emphasising the need for coordinated and collaborative action. In 2014 IGD initiated its Working on Waste campaign to do just this. It was highly successful, bringing 77 organisations together to address household food waste through its employees in its first year.

IGD’s Working on Waste campaign 2015 again focused on engaging employees, in their capacity as consumers, and seek to help them reduce their food and drink waste in their homes with the help of food and grocery industry companies.

We also organised three WoW Debates in October, recognising the need for the industry to go further and to really explore what industry should focus on in order to help consumers make the biggest changes in their behaviours.

The findings from these debates will be developed into a Thought Leadership report, which will be published by the end of 2015 and our WoW Summary Report will be available shortly.


1 2012 data -


Further information about food waste

Here we have pulled together some additional resources about food waste to help you develop your food waste activities.

Free PDF download

Find out how IGD’s Supply Chain Waste programme has led collaborative initiatives to develop and implement best practices on reducing waste in the supply chain.