How Grocery Retailers Can Reduce Food Waste This Holiday Season

Oct 24, 2019 12:16:06 PM

Retail | Operations

We love the holidays. The leaves are turning gold, the air is getting crisp, and there is a lot of good food to be eaten. Because food is what the holidays are really all about, right?

An estimated 45 million turkeys are eaten every Thanksgiving, as well as 40.5 million dinner rolls, 28 million pies, and 57 million pounds of sweet potatoes, to name just a few of the indulgences we allow ourselves during this holiday. And that’s before we even start thinking about Christmas dinner.

This indulgence leads to a shocking amount of food waste. Around 200 million pounds of turkey and 150 million pounds of vegetables, all perfectly edible, will get thrown out. And that’s just in the home. Grocery retailers overstock to compensate for the Thanksgiving rush, thus inevitably adding to the problem.

With public concern for the climate crisis growing, grocery retailers can make meaningful changes to help limit food waste. Here are just some of the initiatives they can put in place to give the planet something to be thankful for this holiday.

Don't have much time? Check out this tasty little video instead:

Implement expiration date tracking technology

One of the major causes of food waste at store level is unsold products being thrown out because they’ve passed their expiration date.

Expiration date tracking technology eliminates this problem. Automating the manual checking of expiration dates not only saves valuable time, but also allows stores to discount soon-to-expire products so that nothing goes to waste and they get a little extra revenue into the bargain.

And as the holidays are such a busy time of year for grocery stores, this kind of technology will be a major help to store teams with a lot on their plates!

Train store employees on food waste issues

Store team training should of course be a high priority for retailers all year round. But the stress of the holiday season makes it all the more important to ensure that your teams are ready for anything.

Incorporating specific courses on food waste into your training program will heighten employee awareness on the issue and encourage them to do their part in fixing it.

Improve transparency and agility within your supply chain

Food waste is an issue that spans the entire supply chain, from the farm to the consumer.

Better communication and collaboration between stores and suppliers will inevitably reduce the amount of waste generated by stores, as it allows for greater flexibility on deliveries and last-minute order changes.

For example, one store might find that their yams are selling out too quickly, but the Brussels sprouts just aren’t moving. If they have a good relationship with their supplier, they can adjust their order and make sure those sprouts don’t go to waste, perhaps sending them to a different store instead.

Embrace “imperfect” produce

The most trivial reason for food waste in grocery retail is that a lot of fruit and vegetables that look a little weird or misshapen are discarded before they even get to the shop floor.

This is nonsensical for a number of reasons, not least because it means stores miss out on a lot of sales by throwing out perfectly good food.

And given the growing consumer concern around food waste, it seems that there is a market for ugly veggies. Some are already capitalizing on this - companies like Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market exclusively sell imperfect produce that cannot be sold to grocery stores.

At a time of year when people are buying a lot of vegetables for their Thanksgiving feast, grocery stores have the perfect opportunity to change their ways.

Give back to the community

‘Tis the season of giving, so what better way to reduce food waste than by giving it to those in need?

Redistributing unsold produce to food banks and hunger-relief charities is a great thing to do no matter what the season, but around the holidays - a very difficult time for many people who are struggling financially - it will be especially appreciated.

What’s more, a 2017 study by Unilever found that one third of consumers now choose which brands they buy from based on their social and environmental impact. All the more reason to show some generosity to those less fortunate this Thanksgiving.


YOOBIC’s expiration date tracking technology drastically reduces food waste in grocery stores. Watch this short video to find out how: