The best way to reduce food waste is to avoid it to begin with, notes Sanjeev Raghubir, the Shoprite Group’s sustainability manager. “Our biggest efforts go into preventing food waste and losses before they occur,” he explains.
The group does this by reviewing its ordering, replenishment and ranging processes, using data analytics to identify food waste hotspots. For example, by optimising the product range in its delis, the group reduced food waste by 11% in that department.
Various parameters are considered by the AI model. “For example, a store close to the finish line of an annual sporting event will automatically be replenished with additional convenience meals for that single day of the year,” Raghubir says.
Salvaging and rescuing food is a popular process seeing increasing use abroad, and it's another important piece in preventing food from being wasted. For example, blemished bananas can be used in a banana-bread recipe.
In the past year, the company donated surplus food valued at R138m. It also facilitates the donation of surplus fruit and vegetables directly from farms to charities.
Regenerative and organic farmer Farmer Angus sources over 4 tons of fruit and vegetables (not fit for human consumption) from the Basson Distribution Centre in Cape Town each week. He feeds this to his pigs and supplies an artisanal charcuterie range back to Checkers, thereby creating another circular flow of resources and avoiding waste.
Organic waste from stores and distribution centres is increasingly managed through on-site composters and off-site biodigesters. In its last financial year, the group sent 236 tons of food waste to composting.
These measures are having a marked impact on food waste and the environment. The group diverted 3,305 tons of food waste from landfills in the past year and saved 8,391 tCO2e.
The Shoprite Group says it's closely aligned with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, including the target to halve food waste at retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along the food chain by 2030.