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The Bulletin

Could Covid cut food waste?

Could Covid cut food waste? Pandemic-induced panic-buying has meant a sales spike for the frozen sector, and while it may be the appeal of long shelf life driving these sales, the sustainability credentials of frozen will in turn become clear. So could Britain’s new-found appreciation of frozen lead to a long-term reduction in food waste? By Emma Scott

At the end of March, BusinessWaste.co.uk warned panic buying would result in more food being thrown away as people bought far more than they needed. Company spokesperson Mark Hall said at the time: “As people overstock, bins are overflowing. People should only buy what they need… there’s only so much you can eat.” Undeterred, UK consumers stocked up on everything from toilet roll to baked beans, and sales of both frozen food and freezers surged. Online appliance retailer AO.com saw freezer sales jump more than 200%, while John Lewis saw three times the usual level of freezer sales for the time of year. Frozen food aisles in some supermarkets were stripped bare by anxious shoppers and Iceland said sales of frozen food, as well as store cupboard staples such as dried and tinned food, had rocketed. It’s easy to see why frozen immediately became a target for stockpilers; its long shelf life would inevitably appeal at a time no-one knew when they’d be able to do their next big food shop. But despite the over-stocking which resulted in an initial spike in food waste, one of the primary benefits of frozen soon became clear. Food waste at household level actually went down.

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The Bulletin - May / June 2020  

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