Food waste

Working to reduce food waste

At Iceland we hate the idea of waste and, while less than 1% (0.63) of our food is currently unsold, we are working hard to reduce this amount even further.

We are proud signatories to the Courtauld Commitment 2030, which has brought together organisations across the food industry to reduce the environmental impact of food and drink, with the shared target of reducing the UK’s food and drink waste by 50% by 2030. Iceland is also a signatory to the WRAP/IGD Food Waste Roadmap, and we signed the Government’s ‘Step Up To The Plate’ pledge in May 2019.

In line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal SDG 12.3, we have set ourselves a target to achieve a 50% reduction of food waste in our own operations by 2030, with 2017/18 as our baseline year.

Since 2017/18, we have reduced food waste in our own operations by 19.3%. Read our 2020/21 food waste report here.

We do not send any unsold food to landfill. Instead we put it to good use in the community; offer it free of charge to our store colleagues, our online customers, convert it into animal feed, or as a last resort use it to produce electricity and compost through a process called anaerobic digestion.

Our focus on frozen food helps to cut waste throughout the supply chain, in stores, and in customers’ homes. We have ambitious plans to redistribute surplus food in new ways and our aim for 2021/22 is to redistribute one million meals, through existing and new food waste partnerships.

Key initiatives that form part of this include our partnership with social enterprise Community Shop, part of the Company Shop Group, that is putting surplus food from our depots to good use in the community. Community Shop operates in some of the most deprived areas of the UK and brings together great value surplus food and personal development to build stronger individuals and more confident communities. In 2020/21, we donated 252 tonnes of surplus food to Community Shop, the equivalent of 598,674 meals. For the third year running, Iceland also sponsored Community Shop’s Christmas Lunch in December 2020.

We have also rolled out Hello Taste, Goodbye Waste, a scheme which allows store colleagues to take home, free of charge, surplus food (food reaching its best before or use by date) at store closing time each day. 105 tonnes of surplus food, equivalent to 233,333 meals was redirected through this scheme between October 2020 and March 2021.

In September 2021 we also launched a Free on Last Day of Life scheme across the country.  This will reduce food waste by offering products free to online shoppers when the last day of shelf life has been reached and no other stock is available.

Additionally, we donated 40 surplus chest freezers to foodbanks and community groups providing emergency food supplies to people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The power of frozen

Frozen food is naturally less wasteful than fresh food because it has a much longer shelf life. This minimises waste in our stores and supply chain, and in our customers’ homes. Consumers also cut waste because they can use just as much as they need for each meal and put the rest of the pack back in the freezer for another occasion. Because frozen vegetables are usually peeled, chopped or diced ready for use, we use ‘wonky veg’ and avoid much of the waste caused by the quest for perfect-looking vegetables in fresh displays.

In 2018, a study commissioned by Iceland from experts at Manchester Metropolitan University revealed that British families reduce their waste by nearly half (47.5%) by eating frozen food. The study found that cooking from frozen food was significantly better value and there was considerably less waste, with many families agreeing that their frozen meals were as good as, or better than fresh. When it came to cost, the study revealed that 18 out of 20 families found frozen to be better value than fresh (on average 29.9% better value).

Extending the life of food

Our food waste strategy starts with innovation. We have worked with our suppliers to significantly extend the shelf life of most of our frozen products, and are working across our supply chain to develop new approaches to packaging, transportation and storage that keep products safer and fresher for longer. We are also improving our forecasting and ordering systems to avoid waste.

We are continuously working with our partners to increase the shelf-life of a wide range of chilled and fresh products. As an example we use modified atmosphere and skin packs for chilled meat ranges, which can increase life by up to 50%. As well as introducing new film types that keep products fresher for longer before opening, we have introduced re-sealable packs for some products to give food a longer life once they are opened in the home. We are also developing new packaging solutions to extend the life of mushrooms and fresh fruit.

Innovative solutions for unsold bread

We have partnered with the UK leader in reprocessing surplus food products, SugaRich, to divert our unsold bread to animal feed. Our store colleagues separate bakery products from general food waste and these are upcycled to produce nutritionally balanced, high quality livestock feed for farm animals. We are working with WRAP to share our knowledge with other supermarkets and encourage them to do the same.

In 2018 we took the unusual step of partnering with the Tiny Rebel brewery in Newport, South Wales, to make an award winning craft beer from waste bread. 10p from every bottle of Bread Board was donated to the charity Surfers Against Sewage to fund UK beach cleans.

Our partnership with Company Shop Group

Iceland has been working with Community Shop, part of the Company Shop Group, to repurpose the surplus food from our depots, and ensure that it is put to good use in the community. This applies to a small amount of food which is good to eat but is more than we ordered, or for some other reason not suitable to send to stores.

Company Shop Group is the UK’s largest redistributor of surplus food and provides great offers to its members, who all work in the food manufacturing industry or the emergency services.

Community Shop is a social enterprise that operates in some of the most deprived areas of the UK and seeks to empower individuals and build stronger communities. Its members can not only shop for good food at great prices – easing the pressure on family budgets – but also gain access to professionally run personal development programmes to kick-start positive change in their own lives.

In 2018 and 2019, Iceland also sponsored Community Shop’s Christmas lunch, each year providing a festive meal for over 700 people across the UK in some of the country’s lowest income areas.

Action in stores and the supply chain

We work very closely with all our suppliers to minimise the amount of waste food Iceland generates by ensuring that we do not carry excess stocks of perishable lines. At store level we strive to improve the way we store, handle and display food to reduce waste. We also reduce the price of food on its ‘use by’ date, while it is still safe to eat and good quality, to benefit customers.

In 2019, we carried out an informal trial in our Food Warehouse stores to offer unsold food free of charge to colleagues for use by their family and friends. This approach has worked well and we will roll out a national trial in 2020.

Helping our customers reduce waste

UK households throw away 7.3 million tonnes of food a year, which equates to 70% of the country’s food waste. We are keen to help our customers reduce waste and save money, and we are stepping up the advice we provide on meal planning, portion sizes, storage and recipes to use up leftover food.

We help our customers understand how to cook from scratch using frozen food, so they can minimise waste while choosing a healthy diet.

Repurposing unwanted freezers

We support foodbanks and charities by donating chest freezers for community use when they are no longer needed in store. We have cleaned, serviced and organised delivery of more than 60 freezers to communities across the UK.

In 2018, we partnered with the Trussell Trust to donate freezers to food banks in North West England and North Wales at Chester, Fylde, South Sefton, South Liverpool, Southport, Middleton, Prestatyn, Wrexham and Abergele.

We also worked with the citizen’s supermarket, Number 7, in Birkenhead, Merseyside, where we donated freezers and chiller cabinets as part of a wider project to support the local community.