As a food retailer, for Central England Co-operative reducing food waste is a hot topic. As a co-operative, community-based business, social need is also a priority. The Society has driven down food surpluses through a variety of operational improvements, including stock management and logistics. Food waste is stable at under 1% of turnover. However, that 1% represents meals for hungry people and a negative carbon impact.
We tried traditional models of a store partnering with a community partner and found a number of recurring issues. We didn’t have the right food, in the right quantities, in the right place to sustain partners’ interest and our third sector partners struggled for resource – storage and volunteers to collect and transport the food. We were also conscious that we may be simply passing on waste to the third sector.
Our solution utilises our existing logistics to backhaul surplus food from our stores to a single, high-capacity partner who can then distribute it to hundreds of community partners. This process allows all the benefits of economies of scale - balancing supply and demand, minimising waste and food miles and providing high levels of good-quality food for community partners.