Sainsbury’s label changes can save 17 million food products being wasted per year

Sainsbury’s has today announced major changes to its date labels on packaging for 276 own brand products in a bid to help reduce food waste in homes.

From the end of August, the retailer will begin the removal of ‘best before’ dates from a raft of fresh produce including pears, onions, tomatoes, and citrus fruits from over 100 product lines, and a further 130 products including potatoes will follow.

The move builds son the work Sainsbury’s has’ done in recent years to remove dates from over 1,500 lines including, pineapples, pumpkins, apples and indoor plants.

These upcoming changes could help UK households to save 11,000 tonnes of food each year, the equivalent of 17 million products.* An on-pack message ‘no date helps reduce waste’ will instead be present across the fresh produce where the label changes come into play.

A recent report from WRAP reveals that removing date labels from the most wasted fresh produce items such as, broccoli, apples, potatoes and cucumber, has the potential to cut annual household food waste by 50,000 tonnes.

Additionally, Sainsbury’s will switch all ‘use by’ dates on own-brand yoghurts to ‘best before’ dates by the end of this year a move which will affect 46 product lines. Research from Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) revealed that 54,000 tonnes of yoghurt is wasted a year.

For 70% of this waste, the date label was cited as the reasons for throwing it away. Related to this, around half of all yoghurt thrown away in homes is in unopened packs.

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), ‘use by’ dates are linked to food safety, whereas ‘best before’ dates relate to food quality. Food with a ‘use by’ date applied should never be used past this date (unless frozen on or before that date), whereas foods with a ‘best before’ date can be eaten beyond that date.

Following stringent testing, Sainsbury’s has found that its yoghurt is safe to consume past its expiration date, and instead, is giving customers more autonomy to make their own decisions on whether their food is good to eat after the ‘best before’ date.

These changes come as part of the retailer’s ongoing commitment to halve its food waste by 2030 and support its ongoing work with farmers and growers to reduce food waste in its supply chain, sending surplus food from stores to charity food donation partners and recovering energy from waste.

In the last year, Sainsbury’s has donated over 5 million meals to those in need through its partner, Neighbourly. Now, the retailer is expanding the service to its convenience stores too, meaning even more meals will be provided. In 2021, Sainsbury’s increased its food distribution to people by 119% year on year, a key driver of which was its partnership with Neighbourly.

Sainsbury’s continues to collaborate with industry on reducing food waste and has been a member of the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap since 2018. The retailer works closely with WRAP to implement their guidance on upstream and downstream food waste, including increasing behavioural tips on product labelling.

This year, Sainsbury’s engaged suppliers on aligning with WRAP’s best practice on redistributing own-label products within the supply chain, evolving its guidelines so that suppliers can redistribute any Sainsbury’s own-label products to its chosen food donation partners.

Kate Stein, Director of Technical at Sainsbury’s, said, “We know that around a third of all food produced for human consumption is either lost or wasted and food waste is one of the leading contributors of carbon emissions, accounting for a staggering 8-10% of GHG emissions globally, which is why we’re committed to helping customers reduce waste at home.

'We also know that by avoiding unnecessary waste, we can help our customers save money by making their food shop last longer. The changes that we’re announcing today will do just that, giving customers more autonomy to make their own decisions on whether their food is good to eat, and preventing them from disposing of food too early.

'With changes like these, together, we can all play our part in tackling the climate crisis and protecting the planet for generations to come.”

Catherine David, Director of Collaboration and Change at WRAP, said, “WRAP is thrilled to see these changes on fruit, veg and yogurts to help tackle food waste in our homes. Wasting food feeds climate change and costs us money. The right date label, or no date label, has a big influence on what we use and what we throw away.

'For fruit and veg, date labels are unnecessary and our research has shown that removing them can save the equivalent of 7 million shopping baskets’ worth from our household bins a year. With yogurts, applying a ‘Best Before’ date rather than a 'Use By’ date means that people can use their judgement to eat beyond that date. Storing most fruit and veg and all yoghurt products in the fridge, below 5 degrees, will keep them fresher longer.

“We call on more retailers to make these changes. The average family in the UK throws away £700 worth of food a year – check out Love Food Hate Waste for tips on how to reduce food waste, save money and fight climate change.”

In 2021, Sainsbury’s announced that it had brought its Net Zero target forward by five years, from 2040 to 2035. The retailer has pledged to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 in its own operations and has sent zero waste to landfill since 2013.