Food Distribution

Food waste in the supply chain is estimated at around £5bn per annum.14 WRAP's best estimates to date is that 4,000 tonnes of food waste per year is generated in distribution.15

This is often as a result of poor or damaged packaging, faulty or inaccurate temperature control settings and environmental factors such as damp or contamination. When these types of incidents occur, food waste can arrive for disposal in large quantities.

  • Barriers in distribution
    1. A reluctance to report waste

      Unforeseen circumstances, human error or lack of planning are frequently written off as natural shrinkage, with no real attempt to measure their impact or address them proactively.

      IGD research identified that many companies are reticent about reporting waste incidents due to fears of damaging their reputation.16 Assigning responsibility and ownership for waste between the producer and the end destination can also be problematic due to multiple stakeholders within an organisation and different external partners.

    2. Rising fuel costs

      Rising fuel prices have driven suppliers to consider lightweight packaging to reduce vehicle weights. However, this can result in foodstuffs becoming more vulnerable to damage or contamination.17

  • Is anything changing?

    WRAP's Courtauld Commitment is prompting change up and down the supply chain with more rigorous attempts to identify and eliminate waste. It has also established a number of tools and case studies that can be applied to all elements of the supply chain, with transparency of reporting and measurement acting as the catalyst for positive action.

    Similarly, the IGD waste prevention toolkit and case studies provide a valuable insight into how and where best practice is happening and how to apply it. This focuses on greater collaboration between partners and suppliers, and a better understanding of the risks and opportunities for change.

  • Food Distribution recommendations
    • Closer collaboration between suppliers, customers and the logistics providers to measure and better understand where waste is occurring and minimise it.
    • Greater adoption of the best practice WRAP and IGD have developed to drive down waste.
    • Businesses to include food waste and consideration of the food waste hierarchy in all waste contract specifications.
    • A review of the opportunities to optimise the shelf life of food produce, by sharing best practice and looking at optimal storage, transit methods and tools.
    • Encourage businesses to strike the right balance between achieving vehicle weight reductions through lightweight packaging and guaranteeing that products reach their destination intact.
    • Government to introduce a phased ban on food waste to landfill from 2017 for business, based on turnover and/or volume of waste generated (e.g. above 50kg of food waste per week), to give companies time to look for and adopt alternative disposal options.
View the Case Study

14 WRAP 2012: Supply chain – Manage and Measure Waste

15 Waste arisings in the supply of food and drink to households in the UK – 2010


17 Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport 2013: Logistics and Transport Focus – the unforeseen effects of lightweighting packaging