Monday, 26 March 2018 12:33

Online retailer Ocado shares secrets of success with near zero food waste

Online retailer Ocado have published a total food waste figure of 0.02% – just 1 in 6,000 items, a near zero waste figure. Ocado's automated business model is built on efficiency and low waste, and tackling the food redistribution strategy has become key, with 2,200 tonnes of food donated in 2017 alone.

Suzanne Westlake, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Ocado said, "By continually improving our technology, processes, and our relationships with suppliers, we've been able to reduce our food waste to practically zero – I believe we have the lowest total food waste figures in our industry. Now we're helping customers reduce their food waste at home too, by giving them more time to keep fresh food in the fridge."

Ocado The online retailer packs every bag of shopping in one of their three futuristic warehouses filled with advanced technology, which they call Customer Fulfilment Centres. Fresh food can arrive directly from suppliers and be sent out for delivery in as little as five hours.

Helen White, Special Advisor on Household Food Waste at WRAP, comments, "Ocado's approach to driving down food waste in their supply chain has resulted in impressively low food waste figures. By guaranteeing product life, providing customers with clear information and using innovative packaging solutions they are helping us all to do our bit to drive down food waste too.

"At home, one of the main reasons for binning food is that we don't use it in time; yet there are some really simple things we can all do, such as making sure we store our food in the best way, to making the most of the food we buy. And it all adds up. Currently the average family of four waste the equivalent to £60 worth of food, every month. Having the support of leading retailers, such as Ocado, is vital in the fight against food waste and crucial if we are to reduce the 7.3 million tonnes of food wasted every year from UK homes."

ocado Suzanne Westlake Head of Corporate Responsibility at Ocado 1 copyHow Ocado Fights Food Waste: In Depth
Ocado's three Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs) are highly automated ad hinged on technology, which the retailer has developed internally over the past 18 years. Using technology such as automation, robotics and proprietary software, the retailer has created a slick operation with efficiency at its heart. Consequently less than 0.02% of food items are wasted, or 1 in 6,000 food products. Contributing factors are:
A shorter supply chain – products come straight from the supplier to the CFC and are packed into shopping bags there, before being sent out direct to the customer, or to a spoke for delivery the same day.
Fewer locations – Ocado has three CFCs where all shopping is packed. Forecasting for fewer locations comes with much less risk of food waste than hundreds of bricks and mortar stores.
Controlled temperatures – chilled products arrive from the supplier at the correct temperature, a whole section of each CFC is refrigerated, and the vans are refrigerated too, which helps extend product life and reduce waste.
Bespoke software – nobody wants damaged products; Ocado's software calculates how to pack items to reduce product damage and decrease food waste.
Packaging – Ocado works with suppliers to make sure products arrive in packaging suitable for automated processes, which reduces damage to products and waste.
Continual optimisation – a culture of testing, reviewing and implementing change in software and logistics internally and with suppliers creates a positive environment to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

Ocado 2Helping customers waste less food at home
Ocado has a number of other initiatives aimed at helping customers to waste less food:
Life to Customer projects – by continually reviewing and optimising supply chain processes, logistics and product packaging, the business increases the time customers get to use up food at home before expiry. The most recent project addressed over 4,500 chilled and bakery lines.
Fight Against Food has just launched in partnership with government funded food waste body WRAP. This resource gives customers information and advice on how to waste less food at home. Less Waste More Taste and the Recipes section of Ocado's website provide inspiration for using up commonly wasted ingredients with over 2,000 recipes.
Helpful receipts – electronic and paper receipts are listed by how to store products (Fridge, Freezer and Cupboard) and Use By Date, so customers can plan meals effectively and manage food waste.
Shopping Lists feature on the website and mobile app helps customers plan ahead for essentials and add everything to their trolley in one click.

Ocado buildingRedistributing Food
A key part of Ocado's food waste strategy is around redistributing food while it's still edible, so only inedible food is wasted. In 2017 alone, Ocado redistributed 2,200 tonnes of food across the UK. Here's how:
Product Life Guarantee – customers are promised that the products they buy will have a minimum amount of time at home before they expire. This commitment to offering customers the most time possible to enjoy their food, means that Ocado sometimes has fresh, edible products they will not sell to their customers. These products are safely redistributed, rather than wasted. Because of the Product Life Guarantee, 95% of the food redistributed by Ocado is fresh, unlike the canned or ambient goods larger food bank networks and supermarkets are able to redistribute.
Food Partners – Ocado works with 17 Food Partners; food banks, charities, organisations and animal parks. Independent food banks close to CFCs, such as Ediblelinks in Warwickshire and DENS in Hertfordshire, are able to redistribute food to individuals and families in need, or community groups, because the fresh food still has a few days before it expires. Animal Parks like Twycross Zoo are able to feed animals in their care, such as big cats, high quality meats, and vegetarian creatures get delicious fresh vegetables; the money saved on their food budgets can be used for conservation projects instead.
Only inedible food gets wasted – for example frozen items, which have defrosted from cancelled deliveries, are sent to anaerobic digestion; none of Ocado's food waste goes to landfill.
Andover lorryDonate Food With Ocado – Ocado helps customers donate food as part of their weekly shop. The retailer matches every £1 customers donate with at least £2 worth of food. Together, Ocado and its customers have donated over £500k worth of food since December 2014.

Long-term commitments
Ocado's goal is to be the most environmentally friendly supermarket. As such, minimising food waste is a key part of their long-term strategy. As a sign of their commitment, Ocado has signed:
• Better Retail, Better World – using the UN's Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, this is the BRC's set of clear, transparent and measurable goals to reduce waste in Retail.
• The Grocer's Waste Not Want Not campaign, which seeks to unite the industry to achieve a greater reduction in food waste.
• WRAP's Courtauld Commitment 2025, a voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing waste within the UK grocery sector.

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