For some time now, the food sector in the UK has faced considerable headwinds driven by a range of factors, including Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, rampant inflation, the Ukraine/Russia conflict, and bad weather, to name but a few. Consumers have found themselves adapting their food buying habits in response to these challenges, and in many cases, individuals and families are having to make extremely difficult decisions, such as seeking help from food banks for the first time.
The large food retailers and manufacturers, for their part, are contending with soaring wholesale prices for raw ingredients, energy, transport, and staffing costs. It is likely that no matter which part of the food system you represent, you will be feeling financial and ethical pressure.
In this article, we ask whether the large food businesses are doing enough to meet their ethical responsibilities.
Huge demand for food banks
The Salvation Army recently has seen “unprecedented” demand from families for food during the school holidays. According to one mother who spoke to BBC News, her children were going hungry “all day long”. She added, “Though my children are entitled to food vouchers, the amount has been halved despite prices going up… I’ve worked out I am £165 short every month, and that’s just for my bills. I’ll go several times a week without a main dinner and just having beans on toast for breakfast. I don’t care about myself as long as my children eat”.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that more and more retailers and brands are stepping up to help, with over 40 companies donating food and funds and retailers donating 3,500 pallets of food. Indeed, this is mirrored by our own efforts at Riverside to donate goods to local food banks.
Tesco Plc has its own food redistribution programme called the Community Food Connection, which it says is the biggest supermarket scheme of its type in the UK. The Community Food Connection has now donated over 140 million meals since 2016, equating to two million meals each week.
Another nationwide food redistribution scheme, Fareshare, donates around 5.7 tonnes of food per charity per year, with 130 million meals’ worth of food being provided to vulnerable people.
Reducing food waste in retail
Part of the drive towards ever-increasing levels of food redistribution is to reduce food waste. According to Fareshare, in the region of 3.6 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK.
Some brands have already done much to remove best before dates from their produce to reduce the potential for unnecessary waste. In a recent announcement, Waitrose, who are following other large food retailers, stated they will be removing “best before” dates on 500 fresh food products in an effort to reduce food waste.
Marks and Spencer have also announced the removal of best before dates from fruit and vegetables to achieve the same aim.
In this article, we only cover the very surface of how food manufacturers and brands are doing their put to ensure food security in the UK and reduce wastage. We hope many other small, medium, and large food suppliers will follow our lead, even on a local level, to meet their ethical responsibilities. If the whole food sector plays its part, the effect could be transformative.
Call us on +44 (0) 1691 839288 or contact us to request a quote – and find out how you can cater to increasing demands from consumers, and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.