Redistribution must raise its game

Tom Rumboll quote web

In the Environment Select Committee Report published last week, the focus was on what government and retailers need to do to step up to the challenge of food waste. Through Courtauld 2025 the ball is also very much in the court of retailers and manufacturers to deliver a step change. But redistributors must play their part too.

We cannot expect retailers, manufacturers and brands to double the amount of food they redistribute unless there is capacity within the redistribution sector. We cannot hope for food businesses to increase redistribution unless they understand which aspects of their waste streams can be redistributed and which can’t. And we cannot assume the industry will increase redistribution unless they are assured that their redistribution partners abide by the highest food safety standards, and act responsibly so their brand and reputation are safe.

Currently, Company Shop and FareShare are the largest scale routes for redistribution. Between us we are currently only getting about 15%-20% of the edible surplus that Wrap believes to be in the supply chain. We both, along with smaller redistributors, need to commit to expanding our capacity. Meeting Courtauld requirements will need some one million square footage of warehouse space, temperature controlled transportation, food safety professionals and around-the-clock logistics. We should be working together as a sector to strategically plan our expansion to support our retail and manufacturing clients in their ambition to reduce food waste.

As redistributors we also need to communicate better about what we do, how we do it and what surplus we can handle. We need to demystify our language and make it as easy as possible for the manufacturers and retailers we work with. The chances are that if one of us can’t handle a certain type of product, then another in the redistribution sector probably could. In our group we are keen to see more joined up propositions that work in a similar way to how Company Shop and FareShare work with Asda.

And finally, we need to reassure the manufacturers and brands we work with that we are all responsible partners. Brand integrity and market leading food safety standards have always been at the heart of the Company Shop model, but as the redistribution sector grows, we must ensure those standards are upheld. Dave Lewis’ article in The Grocer in March (‘Do the right thing!’ 11 March, p31) highlighted how quickly trust can be lost if this doesn’t happen. It is our responsibility to give confidence to the industry that redistribution is a safe, appropriate and flexible solution to their needs, which can help them to achieve their Courtauld targets.

If we are serious about all of this then as redistributors we should start to develop a common set of minimum standards for responsible redistribution that we all sign up to. We should develop consistent reporting frameworks and by investing in our service, make it as easy as possible for the industry. Redistributors should collaborate more often and more creatively to get more good food to more people.

Tom Rumboll is commercial director of Company Shop

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