Sainsbury's Tests New Technology to Trim Food Waste

Sainsbury's Tests New Technology to Trim Food Waste

Image licensed by Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's has invested in new technology that will allow the retailer to make real-time supply chain decisions aimed at reducing food waste caused by unexpected weather.

Weather plays a big role in consumer buying patterns, according to the company, such as driving purchases of comfort fare when it's cold or lighter foods when it's warm.

Unpredictable weather, however, wreaks havoc on the plans of its company buyers, often resulting in perishable food left languishing on shelves, uneaten. There were six periods of unexpected weather last year, Sainsbury's said.

The supply chain technology will give Sainsbury's the ability to make real-time decisions on where to send food from its warehouses, rather than changing course overnight. It has the potential to reduce food waste by 15 percent during unexpected weather, while also reducing its carbon footprint by an estimated 1,400 tonnes.

"Several times a year, shelves might be full of barbecue food for the weekend, only for unexpected rain to cause everyone to clamor for warm, hearty food instead," said Sainsbury's Supply Chain Director Tim Goalen in a statement. "This new way of working will greatly reduce the risk of this. It's not just the weather either. We will now know exactly what is selling well at any given moment so we can react more quickly than any of our competitors, and provide our customers with what they want on any given day."

Sainsbury's sends no food waste to landfills, instead shipping it off to be converted to electricity through anaerobic digestion.

The company has a 2012 goal of reducing the amount of total waste sent to landfills by 50 percent, normalized by sales with a 2005-2006 baseline. It also plans to recycle 90 percent of its construction waste on all development projects by 2012.

The company has also launched an assault on packaging, recently announcing it would sell bagged milk at all of its stores after a successful pilot program; bagged milk uses 75 percent less packaging than bottled milk and also costs 6 pence less.

It has also begun selling tomatoes in cartons instead of cans, which could avoid 500,000 kilos of packaging per year. The company plans to reduce all packaging by a third by 2015.

Image licensed by Sainsbury's.