Reducing food waste

Food waste

Our food waste hierarchy 

The nature of our business means that there is some surplus food that we have stocked but have not been able to sell. In the UK, we use the following hierarchy to manage surplus food and prevent it from going to landfill:

  1. We try to minimise surplus, for example by reducing to clear foods close to their expiry date.
  2. If food cannot be sold, we offer it where possible to those in need by donating to charities. In the UK we divert all surplus fresh food, including meat and produce, from our distribution centres and online grocery centres to support food redistribution charity FareShare. This amounts to the equivalent of seven million meals a year of surplus food, which FareShare uses to support over 1,700 community groups across the UK. In Ireland we are working with an organisation called FoodCloud so that charities can collect surplus food directly from our stores.
  3. We send all bakery waste to be converted into animal feed for livestock and our chicken fat and cooking oil is converted into biodiesel.
  4. If these options are not available, we recover energy from food waste through anaerobic digestion or incineration. We have achieved zero food waste direct to landfill since 2009. 

Analysing our own operations

The first step to long-term change is greater transparency. That's why in May 2014 we became the first UK retailer to publish data about food waste in our own operations for a full financial year. These were  independently assured by KPMG and show that during 2013/14, 56,580 tonnes of food were wasted in Tesco stores and distribution centres in the UK. 

This represents less than 1% of the number of food products sold in our stores over this period. We have worked hard to reduce waste to this level - reducing waste makes commercial sense. The challenge now is to innovate to reduce this figure further and share best practice across all our operating markets.

We are rolling out a blueprint of best practice worldwide. This provides clear guidance on handling produce, store ordering and other waste reduction procedures.

In specific areas where the waste figures are high we have targeted action plans. For example we have re-designed our in-store bakeries so that less bread is displayed at any one time and is replenished more frequently when demand is high.


Targeting food waste hotspots

We have developed food waste profiles for 25 of our most frequently purchased food products. These profiles highlight the percentage of total food production wasted at every stage of the value chain.

Below is a selection of these profiles and a summary of how we are tackling the food waste hotspots.



To reduce losses in the field and processing we are:

  • Reviewing waste alongside customer preferences when selecting different potato varieties
  • Using satellite and aerial mapping technology to identify specific trends in field losses
  • Introducing new technology to remove stones earlier in processing to reduce damage

To help customers reduce food waste in the home we are reviewing opportunities for modified atmosphere packaging which could help the potatoes to last longer.

Field losses 9%, Processing losses 6%, Retail waste 1%, Consumer waste 39%

Illustration of potatoes


To help reduce the amount of cheese our customers waste at home we have:

  • Introduced re-sealable packaging on all British cheddars
  • Standardised the on-pack shelf life information so that customers know, for example, that all soft and blue cheeses should be used within three days of opening
  • Added recipes on our Real Food website to provide ways for customers to use up any leftover cheese

Field losses 1%, Processing losses under 1%, Retail waste under 1%, Consumer waste 9%

Illustration of a cheese board


To reduce waste in processing we are trialling innovative ways of storing and transporting lamb to improve product quality and freshness.

To increase shelf life for customers we are rolling out specialised packaging. This technology has been successfully introduced for beef, giving customers up to an extra five days to consume the product, and we hope it will have a similar impact for lamb.

Field losses 7%, Processing losses 13%, Retail waste 1%, Consumer waste 5%

Illustration of lamb

Within the scope of KPMG LLP's limited assurance opinion see page 42 for more details. * Since we published our first five food waste profiles in October 2013, WRAP has published revised household food waste data which has been incorporated into our 25 food waste profiles.