Promotions and food waste

Promotions are a key feature of the retail landscape. They account for about one-third of all grocery spend and are used widely both to attract customers into retail stores and to gain market share.

Most promotions involve a ‘temporary price reduction’ (TPR) but other mechanisms are also used including ‘buy X for £Y’ and ‘buy one get one free’ (BOGOF).

This report, ‘Preventing waste through good practice in grocery promotions management’ summarises the findings of a project which examined whether there was a link between promotions and food waste arising at the retail and manufacturing stages of the supply chain. The research has found:

  • There is no direct link between the increasing number of promotions and food waste, indeed reported food waste by Courtauld signatories has been falling;
  • Some promotions can help prevent waste, for example because there is a flush of product brought on by warm weather that might otherwise remain unsold;   
  • There are also instances when promotions could lead to increased waste, for example because time scales are challenging to meet commercial deadlines, or because the uplift in sales is difficult to forecast.

In response to these findings WRAP has produced guidance notes for retailers and manufacturers. These notes identify how waste might arise in the promotion planning, execution and evaluation phases and suggest solutions to help prevent waste. Among the solutions WRAP has identified is the recommendation that waste prevention is made a key factor at all stages of promotion management.

Previous WRAP work published in 2011 examined the link between promotions and food waste in the home. The results from the in-home research suggest that food bought on promotion is not more likely to be wasted, at least for the products investigated.