Grocers’ Food Waste Efforts Miss the Mark

Report finds nine of top 10 chains don’t publicly report their total food waste

It’s no secret—America has a food waste problem, and according to the latest report by the Center for Biological Diversity and the “Ugly” Fruit & Veg Campaign, grocery stores are the core culprits.

The report, titled Checked Out: How U.S. Supermarkets Fail to Make the Grade in Reducing Food Waste, graded the top 10 supermarket chains in the U.S.—Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons Cos., Aldi, Costco, The Kroger Co., Publix, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart Inc. and Whole Foods Market—on their food-waste reduction commitments, policies and actions, analyzing publicly available information and details provided by company officials. The chains operate a combined total of more than 13,000 grocery stores nationwide.

Not one store earned an A.

Nine out of the top 10 supermarket chains don’t publicly report their total food waste, according to the report, with Ahold Delhaize being the only company to do so. A majority of the companies received a D or an F for failing to take meaningful action or give clear public commitments to address their efforts in preventing food waste.

Walmart came in at the top of its class with a B as the only company with a variety of clear in-store efforts to reduce food waste, such as improving store fixtures, standardizing date labels and educating associates and shoppers.

Ahold Delhaize, Kroger and Albertsons earned C's, while Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco and Publix received D's. Aldi was graded an F, and was the only company that did not report a food recycling program, such as composting, animal feed or other industrial uses.

“It’s appalling that America’s biggest supermarkets are doing so little to reduce their enormous contribution to the food-waste crisis,” said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center, in a statement. “Food waste is a growing problem that squanders water and farmland, hurting wildlife and putting food security at risk. We can stop this massive waste, but only if supermarkets are part of the solution.”

According to the report, 40% of food produced in the U.S. goes to waste, and businesses that serve or sell food are responsible for 40% of that number, with retailers accounting for more waste than restaurants or foodservice providers.

Retailers have focused their food-waste reduction efforts largely on donations, as all 10 supermarket chains have food donation programs, with the majority operating companywide. “Ugly” produce programs—where retailers offer imperfect items at a discounted price—have also gained traction among in recent years, such as Walmart’s Spuglies line of irregular russet potatoes. Yet four of the 10 companies have no imperfect produce initiatives, according to the report.

As the primary source where most consumers purchase food, supermarkets influence what food makes it from farm to shelf, what happens to unsold food, and how much and what types of food shoppers purchase. However, the report found that the majority of retailers focus on donating and recycling food waste rather than preventing it, and they fail to track food waste throughout their entire operations.

Walmart, Ahold Delhaize, Kroger and Albertsons were the only companies with specific food-waste reduction commitments, led by Kroger’s commitment of zero food waste by 2025.

“Customers have taken notice of the massive problem of wasted food and want businesses to take responsibility and action,” said Jordan Figueiredo, creator of the “Ugly” Fruit & Veg Campaign, in a statement. “That’s why we’re calling on American supermarkets to do their part and commit to eliminating food waste by 2025. Eliminating food waste in the grocery sector could have a ripple effect across society that could help address hunger, save money and protect the environment.”

Read the full report here


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