Waste not, want not

Mel Beard
Deputy Chair, National Association of Health Stores

Food wastage is a huge issue in the UK and there are many ways that health food retailers can help customers to combat this as well as help them make better choices in store. Here are our top tips!

Refills/weigh your own/bring your own containers - wherever you can, offer these options for food as it allows customers to buy just the amounts they need and helps them reduce wastage for uneaten items. Great for recipes, and for people to try small quantities before committing to larger amounts that might go to waste.

Selling package-free fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables, eggs, bread and other baked goods etc. means customers can choose what they want and purchase individual items or just the amount they will eat before it goes off.

Customer ordering - offering a service for customers to order in items as they require them helps stores to limit their wastage of these products as they are purchased on demand. Especially useful for fruit and veg boxes or chilled items to prevent waste and over-ordering.

Carefully monitor fridge and freezers to avoid in-store wastage from items not being stored at the correct temperature. Also ensure that items are correctly stored. Reduce wastage in-store by only ordering what you need/sell. Do not buy in bulk just because it's a good deal if it has a short shelf life!

Choose suppliers carefully. Ensure those that supply to you have not stored short shelf-life products in bulk for long periods of time before supplying to you, therefore minimising the shelf life you can offer to customers and causing wastage.

Freeze items in store where possible. For example, freeze fresh bread that may not sell in-store in good time and offer it to customers that way rather than waste it. Also make customers aware that goods can be frozen to extend shelf life where applicable.

Encourage purchase of easy cook meals as an alternative to takeaways and supply good recipes for customers to help them use up leftovers.

Look to increase your frozen ranges in store as these items have much longer shelf lives. Items such as frozen fruits and vegetables are really popular, especially for people on their own who would not get through a whole bag or can of something.

Look for local charities/organisations that want donated food items that are close to expiry dates and are used to help local good causes such as shelters. Better to donate it than throw it away.

Encourage composting at home. Offer educational material in-store about home composting food waste.

Offer taste testers - where possible, if people can try before they buy they are much less likely to buy something that they might ordinarily waste. At the end of the day if you have food that is expiring that day, give it to a customer who might like it to try rather than throw it away.

Encourage customers to use a shopping list! Talk to them about minimising food waste and try to educate them on smarter ways to shop that are better for the planet.

Retailers and customers working together to reduce this unnecessary food waste could really help to make a difference.

To join the NAHS, contact Avril McCracken on 01875 341408 or email office@nahs.co.uk

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