Flexible Procurement Helps Fight On-Farm Food Waste

In response to a bumper harvest in the northern hemisphere, UK retailer Tesco has increased the amount of strawberries it is purchasing. The elastic approach to procurement fights food waste as the supermarket leans on its promotional tools to drive up demand.

The sudden arrival of warmer weather in the UK after a dismal, cold and wet spring has quickly resulted in an abundance of British strawberries. The effect in supply levels has resulted in a glut that, if demand remained constant, would lead to pre-farmgate food waste.

On-farm food waste in the UK totals around 3.6m tonnes a year, according to research from non-profit WRAP. That’s 7.2 percent of all food harvested, and a bigger footprint than the country’s manufacturing and retail food waste combined.

Tesco reviews its growers’ crop outlooks and projects customer demand pre-season to determine how best to use promotional activity throughout the season, for example, two for £3 promotions. Tescos’s growers, however, now face an unexpectedly high harvest.

“The heatwave brought the strawberries on very quickly and meant that many growers had more than they expected,” observed Tesco berry buyer, Laura Mitchell.

In response to this unforeseen jump in availability, Tesco has bought an extra 400 tonnes of strawberries.

The retailer has put one-kilo boxes on sale for £3 instead of the regular price of £2 for a 400g punnet. The 1 kg boxes are brought in at times when there is a particular peak in crop, this allows Tesco to quickly get the stock on the shop floor for customers, delivering additional volume for the growers.

By working collaboratively with its suppliers, the supermarket is able to identify opportunities to reduce food waste across the value chain.

“Close cooperation between suppliers and retailers on crop flushes of fresh fruit and vegetables is important because production is heavily influenced by the weather,” explained WRAP sector specialist for fresh produce, Will McManus.

“In the future, WRAP would like to see improved forecasting tools that enable businesses to better match supply and demand. In the meantime, we would like to see businesses establish clear communication channels and policies that enable surplus product to be promoted, diverted to alternative added-value products or for redistribution.”