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Tackling Food Waste with Asda

It is estimated that one-third of edible food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally each year. In the UK, food waste derived from households accounts for 7.3 million tonnes of total food and drink wasted annually. UK households throw away approximately a third of the food they purchase for consumption.

In a bid to tackle this problem, CDRC Co-investigator Professor William Young and his team at the University of Leeds joined with Asda to implement a multichannel initiative aimed at changing customer attitudes and behaviour.

The research team used six national communication channels at Asda (in-store magazine, e-newsletter, Asda’s Facebook site, product stickers and in-store demonstrations), to send out standard food waste reduction messages (taken from the WRAP Love Food Hate Waste campaign) during two 4-6 week intervention periods, one in 2014 and the other in 2015.

Six national surveys over 21 months tracked customers’ self-reported food waste. Customers answered the online questionnaire a few months before, two weeks and a few months after each intervention period. Participants were recruited from Asda’s existing customers that had signed up to complete a market research panel of 30,000 customers.

‘As a major food retailer, we have a responsibility and the ability to bring about large scale change when it comes to tackling food waste. By partnering with the University of Leeds, the team has been able to take our insight and really explore this area, meaning that we now have a greater understanding of customer attitudes and behaviour, helping shape the way we communicate with our customers and ultimately how we do business.’

Asda’s Chief Customer Officer, Andy Murray

How was food waste measured?

The degree to which consumers had engaged in food waste behaviours was measured using two items, frequency and quantity. Frequency of waste was measured by asking consumers “How regularly do you think food is thrown away in your household?” Responses were given on a five-point Likert scale (1 = Never, 5 = Most mealtimes).

The quantity of foods wasted was measured by asking “Over the past week have you thrown out any of the following items? Please select all that apply.” Participants indicated the types of foods wasted from nine product categories including: fruit, vegetables, salad, bakery, dairy, meat and poultry etc. After each survey the costs of food waste were calculated by coding each product type using WRAPs cost of food waste.

The difference between the figure calculated from the survey conducted before the intervention and the one conducted after the intervention was then calculated to give food waste savings. Once the food waste analysis was complete, the results from the sample population were upscaled and applied to the total customer base.

Food waste behaviour change:

  • Three interventions were implemented in 2015, when surveyed 81% of those who recalled the interventions said they planned to follow the advice provided.
  • An estimated two million customers are making changes in their homes as a result of the campaign. Examples include using shopping lists to shop smarter, planning meals and using up food.
  • Customers saved on average £57 per annum by applying these changes in their home.

Related Papers

Social media is not the ‘silver bullet’ to reducing household food waste, a response to Grainger and Stewart (2017) – C. William Young, Sally V Russell, Ralf Barkemeyer

Bringing habits and emotions into food waste behaviour – Sally V. Russell, C. William Young, Kerrie L. Unsworth, Cheryl Robinson

Can social media be a tool for reducing consumers’ food waste? A behaviour change experiment by a UK retailer – C. William Young, Sally V Russell, Cheryl A. Robinson, Ralf Barkemeyer

Research Team

This research was commissioned by Innovate UK (Knowledge Transfer Partnership Scheme) and Asda-Walmart. The research team:

Professor William Young, Sustainability Research Institute/Consumer Data Research Centre
Dr Sally Russell, Sustainability Research Institute
Dr Phani Kumar Chintakayala, Consumer Data Research Centre
Dr Ralf Barkemeyer, Kedge Business School, France
Cheryl Robinson and Laura Babbs, KTP Associates Asda-Walmart