Food waste is a problem for the economy and the environment alike. The grocery chain City Gross is trying to tackle the problem, by putting special waste investigators in charge of improving procedures and coming up with counteractions. One example is the store in Hyllinge, which serves up food prepared from products close to expiry.
”Wastage is a familiar problem in the food industry; it is an unfortunate phenomenon, affecting both the environment and the value for money. Here at City Gross, we are attempting to prevent food waste in a new way, and we have come up with an entirely new job title: waste investigator”, says Annica Hansson-Borg, Environmental and Quality Manager at the parent company Bergendahls.
”We have appointed a waste investigator for every region where we have stores. If a store appears to have a high level of wastage, the waste investigator is called in to look over purchase procedures, see how the waste is handled, and come up with creative solutions”.
Waste investigators lead the way
”The pilot program has demonstrated that there is a lot of room for improvement. We have opened an eating place in our store in Hyllinge, Skåne, where the food is prepared from products getting close to expiry. Waste is down 20 percent, and we are looking to do the same in other stores. The waste investigator identifies food handling procedures which do not add value”, says Annica Hansson-Borg.
”We are looking at the whole picture and want to make a real difference. All fresh meats are purchased from Swedish farms, and are cut and prepared in the stores. Another novelty of ours is that we now take anatomic responsibility for our organic pork. What this means is that we purchase entire pigs instead of pork cuts, and the parts that are not sold as cuts are turned into charcuteries under our own brand. It is a systematic approach to reduce food waste. We can always offer freshly ground beef and our cutters mince at least three times a day”, Annica says.
”We have also introduced a system that we call “pork and lamb allowance”; for every cut of meat sold in our stores, one Swedish krona goes straight to the local meat producer. The intention is to support local production and avoid unnecessary transports”.
Empowering the customer to make green choices
”Obviously, we want to run a successful business, but not at someone else’s expense. Sustainable development has become a more important part of our strategy, and we are attentive to our customers and the public debate. We need to act quickly and decisively, but above all we have to empower the customers to make green choices”, says Annica Hansson-Borg. City Gross is translating this into a number of policies:
- Environmentally considerate transports:
”We believe it to be irresponsible to have trucks running empty, and our ambition is to have a 100 percent load factor in our transports. To achieve this, both cold and hot transports may be included in the same cargo. Our drivers are trained in ECO-driving”.
- Chemical awareness:
”It is important for us that customers and employees feel safe with the products we are offering. Chemical products with hazard labels are linked to a databank, making the product’s safety data sheet easily accessible to anyone looking for more information”.
- Svanen-labeled stores:
”We have decided that all our stores should carry the Nordic ecolabel Svanen. One of the most important criteria is to offer a wide range of eco-labeled and organic products, clearly displayed. A Svanen-labeled store also has to be energy efficient, and we are always looking to reduce our energy consumption”.
- Seafood policy:
”City Gross wants to contribute to sustainable fishing practices around the world. When our seafood policy was first adopted in 2008, it made us the first grocery chain to rule out tiger prawn and eel. Greenpeace has given us top ratings in their evaluations of grocery chains. Our policy and our fish guide are based on WWF lists, the Greenpeace Seafood Redlist, and recommendations from The National Agency for Public Procurement with green, yellow and red labels for fish. We use the same system, and our fish guide is updated continously”.
The article was published in August 2016.