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Monday, 21 October 2013

Food Revolution

The saddest part about revelations which show that Tesco has thrown over 30,000 tonnes of food away in the last quarter is that I wasn't even remotely surprised. Certainly I was appalled but I wasn't surprised. The trouble is that this has been allowed to evolve over many years as Tesco has continued its obscene domination of the UK retail sector.

In these posts, I have long advocated the advantages and strengths of localism and this news just adds more weight to my argument. To understand these revelations better though, it is instructive to analyse the details.

We are told that one of the biggest items thrown away is bags of salad. There are two sides to this. Not everybody shops at Tesco so they will always be faced with buying challenges when stocking up their fresh produce offerings. That said, Tesco have Clubcard. Not so much to reward your custom as you may mistakenly believe, but rather to track your buying patterns and seek to supply them accordingly for the maximum profit. Therefore, they can't even predict with accuracy how much stock they need on their shelves even when armed with the buyinf patterns of their customers. They either have a sub-standard buying department or an over ambitious growth forecast.

Aside from the obvious point that we have increasingly become a nation of salad dodgers, the other possibility here is simply that people have seen through the Tesco vision and returned to the riches of localism to be found on their own high streets. Recent market research data would appear to confirm this view.

The Tesco disclosure also asserts that its customers also continue to waste large amounts of the food they purchase. The latter is well known and should be highlighted as a national disgrace. It is immoral that we complain about austerity while throwing so much food away when people in other parts of the world really are starving to death daily. While Tesco are quite right to point to household waste, I would remind them that the latter is made possible by companies such as themselves using every marketing tool in the book to squeeze every last penny out of its Clubcard clutching customers. Just this morning, their Commercial Director of Group Food asserts that Tesco is seeking to reduce the average £700 per annum currently being thrown away by their customers so that they have more money in their pockets - so that they can spend it in Tesco of course! Is it just me or is the strategy of this and its equally nauseous friends at Asda, Morrison's and Sainsbury's barn door obvious. Their entire business models are based on continued expansion to fund even more stores and rest assured, they couldn't care a fig how they do it just as long as they can show a profit to their share holders. Frankly, its a bit rich for a company like Tesco to be pointing to the amount being thrown out by the British consumer. They really should seek to get their own house in order first. They can't have it both ways. They want everybody's custom and to eradicate the competition but woe betide you if you buy an extra bag of salad from them (which they promoted in the first place) which then gets thrown away.

Nationally, our waste of food is morally repugnant. It is utterly inexcusable. If there was a huge snow storm today which meant that everybody was confined to their homes for a couple of weeks, do you think many would starve? Of course, there would be some that would but the majority have freezers and cupboards stocked up to the brim. We all need to just take a step back here and take a look at the people in the world (of whom far too many) who genuinely don't know where their next meal is coming from. Shame on Tesco and shame on us. This problem belongs to all of us. It is immune from Nimbyism and we all have some soul searching to do.

Wherever possible, my family now spends its money on our local high street. This supports local jobs. The local shopkeeper knows me and we know him. I don't have a Clubcard but I have a fair price and buy only the food which I need. I also know that much of the food I buy has been reared and produced locally so it hasn't travelled far. The Tesco apples being thrown away have been flown half way around the world and sprayed with sulphur dioxide to give the impression of freshness. My local grocer doesn't need to do that because my local apples are just that - local and fresh. Yesterday, we ate some rocket lettuce which will thankfully never see a plastic bag. We picked it fresh from our garden and it tasted like, well, rocket lettuce - as you would expect. As the saying goes, "you pay your money and you take your choice"....