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  • Author: Anne Hildebrand

Food waste reduction – a topic that matters for METRO

Our core business is to provide our customers with high quality food. Wasting it is an economic, social and ecological burden.

The global food system of our time is characterized by the fact that a third of all produced food turns into waste and the same time 800 million people struggle with hunger annually. At the same time it is the challenge of our business as it is based on trading with food products and its resources. 
Taking actions to primarily prevent and reduce food loss and food waste is not just an obligation due to ecological, ethical and social reasons. We approach to turn it around and see it as an opportunity we can benefit economically by making our trading process smarter, more efficient and enabling our customers to run their business more responsible. 

METRO aims to reduce food waste in its own operations by 50 per cent by 2025 and therefore contributes to the Food Waste Resolution of The Consumer Goods Forum, signed in 2015. In order to achieve this ambitious target the measurement and managing of food waste at all stages and hotspots within our own business is an important instrument to make progress and to improve. The collection and analysis of write-off data per product category through our merchandising system is the most pragmatic and proven approach to measure food waste within our business. Within the discussion of globally harmonized measurement methodology we appreciate the approach of the EU Commission to rely as much as possible on existing measurement schemes for data collection.

For the purpose of reducing food waste on a big scale we are active together with our partners along the entire value chain, from field to logistics and store and warehouse processes up to our professional customers.

Food Waste: Commitments & Achievements of CGF Members 

From farm to warehouses

Metro Cash & Carry Turkey collaborated with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey to measure food loss rates of lettuce, which is known to be lost at high rates in Turkey, to mitigate losses by encouraging good practices. For this purpose “poor condition” practices impacting the preserving of product quality negative and “favorable condition” practices impacting it positive were identified. Moreover seven supply chain stages, harvest, preliminary transportation, sorting, packaging for instance, were defined to measure the impact of “favorable” & “poor” conditions on food loss.

The experimental project in Turkey showed that total weight loss rates of  lettuces across all stages could be reduced from poor to favorable conditions by 13.4 % to 6.6 %. The conclusions for Turkey are that a significant amount of food loss can be prevented if necessary investments for good supply chain practices are made. Through better stock management and donating instead of destroying goods

Own business operations

Metro International Supply operates a network of regional warehouses in order to optimize the flow of about 3.000 articles from the supplier to the local country warehouses. At this stage food waste appears whenever goods are no longer sellable to our customers for different reasons. Based on the shrinkage data collected in trading business it was already possible to measure food waste share and identify the potential to reduce food waste and destruction costs.

Unsellable goods are now donated instead of destroyed. In order to get there, internal guidelines and procedures were adjusted and relationships to local Food banks were created. METRO International Supply was able to reduce destruction cost by 64 % and food waste by almost 90 % within a fiscal year. These figures show clearly that efforts pay off and we learned that suspected burdens, such as existing guidelines or people who need to change their working habits aren’t any.

Creating Customer Value

The consumers are likewise taken into account of our effort. For example, together with various project partners, Cash & Carry developed special boxes for restaurants and caterers in Italy, France and Germany, for uneaten food to be taken home in.

METRO Cash & Carry France supports the Gourmet Bag initiative of the food authority DRAAF Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. A special label identifies participating restaurants and encourages guests to specifically ask for doggy bags. METRO Cash & Carry France has developed a comprehensive package for newcomers to the programme. In addition to background information and tips on how to avoid waste, it contains Gourmet Bag door stickers and reusable doggy bags.

In Italy, METRO Cash & Carry launched a similar project called Schiscetta Reverse during EXPO 2015 together with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food Bank Organisation. Schiscetta is the Milanese term for a container that people use to take food from home to work. The project of the same name uses the reverse process by encouraging consumers to have dishes they have not finished at restaurants wrapped up to take home.

In 2016, METRO Cash & Carry conducted a representative survey on food waste in Germany. The key finding of the study was that not wasting food is very important or important to 98 per cent of restaurateurs in Germany. Nearly two thirds of restaurateurs already offer their guests the option of taking their leftovers home. METRO Cash & Carry stays abreast of these changes and purposefully helps its customers to reduce food waste – not only with its leftovers box “Beste-Reste-Box”, which has been available in its wholesale stores since 2016.

Moreover Cash & Carry became a member of the cross-sector initiative United Against Waste in June 2016. Together with the organisation and its partners, Cash & Carry offers practical solutions, for example to our HoReCA customers, for decreasing food waste by optimizing kitchen processes while at the same time saving costs.

Corporate Citizenship

For many years we have been supporting food banks in 17 countries. Cash & Carry supports food banks in almost all operating countries where it’s accepted from the government and the society. They are collecting food unsaleable sorted out from the retailers and distribute the food to people in need.

To further support the efforts of our Cash & Carry countries on food donations METRO AG, the European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) and HORTREC, the European trade association of hotel, restaurants and cafes singed a Framework Agreement end of October 2016. Through this agreement we strengthen our efforts to reduce food waste by sharing experience and best practices and encourage the food service sector to get involved in the donation of unsellable food.

Anne Hildebrand

Information about the author

Anne Hildebrand is Head of Corporate Responsibility at METRO AG Anne.Hildebrand@metro.de