Helping consumers reduce food waste: a retail survey - 2009

Start date:
February 2009
October 2009

Research by WRAP estimates that 8.3 million tonnes per year of food and drink waste is generated by households in the UK, most of which (5.3 million tonnes) is avoidable. Consumer research has suggested that levels of knowledge and understanding about how to store and use their food and the size of packs available can impact on food waste.

In light of these and other issues, Brook Lyndhurst was appointed by WRAP to lead an extensive quantitative assessment of the type and consistency of information and packaging functionality available to consumers. The aim was to provide an important resource for WRAP and the food industry to identify good practice that could be implemented more widely, and to identify areas where inconsistency or lack of clarity could be addressed to improve consumer understanding and confidence, thereby reducing food waste.

The final report can be found here.

Data was collected by 'mystery shoppers' from ESA Market Research on over 10,000 individual products, from 19 different categories across 70 different stores from around the UK. Evidence was gathered on a range of factors including:

  • pack size and price;
  • storage, freezing and defrosting instructions;
  • date marks displayed on the packaging;
  • the presence of cooking instructions, recipes and tips;
  • portion size information;
  • packaging and pack features;
  • recycling logos used; and
  • any point of sale information given that might help consumers to reduce food waste.

The selection of products was based on data collected for ‘The Food We Waste’ report to be representative of those foods most commonly wasted at the household level. 

The analysis considered the full range of factors for each different food category, to identify issues, or areas of concern, that may be worth further attention in future. It showed, for example, that there was a lack of smaller pack sizes in only a small number of product categories, while in others there was a lack of consistency in the storage and freezing instructions, which could cause some confusion amongst consumers. There was also inconsistent use of date marks in some product categories (e.g. in the use of ‘display until’ dates). Finally, while some product categories did display useful advice on portion sizing, or had packaging with features that may help to reduce food waste (e.g. re-closable bags), there appeared to be substantial scope to roll out these features further to other product types.

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