Cut­ting food waste saves money for French su­per­mar­kets

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

CUT­TING food waste is an ap­peal­ing so­cial goal, but ex­per­i­ments in France found that mea­sures to cut the amount of food be­ing thrown out also saved su­per­mar­kets money.

Like a num­ber of other coun­tries, France has re­cently adopted leg­is­la­tion that forces su­per­mar­kets to do­nate to char­i­ties food that is un­wanted or past its sell-by date but still edi­ble.

While re­tail shops and mar­kets ac­count for the small­est per­cent­age of losses in the food chain, the French En­vi­ron­ment and En­ergy Man­age­ment Agency (ADEME) nev­er­the­less found that they were re­spon­si­ble for the equiv­a­lent of 2.8 bil­lion meals go­ing to waste an­nu­ally, and that there was much that could be done to re­duce spoilage. It re­cently teamed up with five su­per­mar­ket chains – Auchan, Car­refour, E Le­clerc, In­ter­marche and Sys­teme U – to ex­per­i­ment in 10 stores.

“With of­ten sim­ple ac­tions that cost lit­tle it is pos­si­ble to cut food waste by 22 per­cent in three months across the stores,” said ADEME.

If adopted across the coun­try, “the mea­sures would save 300,000 tonnes of food per year and more than 700 mil­lion euros [US$745 mil­lion] per year”, it said.

By ad­just­ing the gro­cery se­lec­tion and sell­ing some prod­ucts, like pies, by the piece, Auchan made 220,000 euos in an­nual sav­ings at one store.

“The ef­fort is worth the money,” the store said.

The changes made in the 10 su­per­mar­kets re­sulted in sav­ing the equiv­a­lent of 160 tonnes of food per year, or some 320,000 meals.

“For each store, that rep­re­sented a sav­ings of 70,000 per year on av­er­age,” said ADEME, adding that food waste usu­ally costs su­per­mar­kets some 400,000 euros per year.

ADEME cal­cu­lated that this would boost a su­per­mar­ket’s gro­cery sales by an av­er­age of 0.9pc. In a busi­ness known for ra­zor-thin mar­gins, this would “have a con­sid­er­able im­pact on the net mar­gin of stores, that is to say their prof­its”, said the agency.

One of the ma­jor prob­lems that ADEME iden­ti­fied was sup­ply man­age­ment. In cer­tain su­per­mar­kets, it found over-or­der­ing re­sulted in less than 1 per­cent of prod­ucts caus­ing 20pc of food waste by value.

An­other was prod­ucts were be­ing dam­aged by be­ing han­dled too much, and em­ploy­ees weren’t be­ing trained to fo­cus on avoid­ing waste.

ADEME has put up a list of rec­om­mended mea­sures for su­per­mar­kets to adopt, like re­duc­ing the num­ber of prod­ucts on shelves and ap­point­ing a staff mem­ber to be re­spon­si­ble for re­duc­ing food waste.

Alain Vallee, head of the Sys­teme U su­per­mar­ket in the western town of Mayenne, ex­panded the stores’ prac­tice of dis­count­ing prod­ucts that are dam­aged or close to ex­piry.

Fruit and veg­eta­bles that are slightly bruised are sold at dis­counts of up to 30pc, and all dis­counted food is now in a cen­tral lo­ca­tion. The re­sult: 90-95pc of such goods are sold, com­pared to 27pc when left in their re­spec­tive depart­ment.

One store man­ager said he cut food waste by nearly one-third, gen­er­at­ing 96,000 euros in sav­ings.

While ADEME is en­cour­ag­ing a bit of flex­i­bil­ity, food in­spec­tors are not al­ways on board.

“I want to of­fer slightly dam­aged prod­ucts, but when there are in­spec­tions we get rapped on the knuck­les,” said the man­ager.

ADEME in­tends to launch stud­ies next into how food waste can be re­duced on farms and in food pro­ces­sors. –

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