The center’s report, “Checked Out,” includes a report card giving a majority of the 10 companies a D or F for failing to take meaningful action or give clear public commitments to address their contribution to the food waste crisis. Forty percent of food that’s produced in the United States goes to waste, and businesses that serve or sell food are responsible for 40 percent of food waste in the country, with retailers accounting for more waste than restaurants or food service providers, the report says.
“It’s appalling that America’s biggest supermarkets are doing so little to reduce their enormous contribution to the food waste crisis,” Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, says. “Food waste is a growing problem that squanders water and farmland, hurting wildlife and putting food security at risk. We can stop this massive waste, but only if supermarkets are part of the solution.”
As the primary place where most Americans purchase food, supermarkets influence what makes it from farms to shelves, what happens to unsold food and even how much and what types of food shoppers buy.
The report analyzed key food waste reduction commitments, policies and actions at 10 companies—Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons, ALDI, Costco, Kroger, Publix, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Whole Foods Market—that operate a combined total of more than 13,000 grocery stores across the country. The companies were graded on their efforts to address the problem of food waste, from tracking and publicly reporting data to initiatives such as selling “ugly” produce.
Key findings include:
- Nine out of America’s 10 largest grocery companies fail to publicly report their total volume of food waste. Ahold Delhaize, which owns supermarket chains such as Food Lion and Stop & Shop, was the only company that publicly reported this data.
- The four companies that earned a C grade or higher were the only ones with specific food waste reduction commitments. Kroger leads the way with a commitment to producing zero food waste by 2025.
- Four of the 10 companies have no imperfect-produce initiatives, which can prevent the waste of imperfect fruits and vegetables.
- Walmart was the only company with a variety of clear in-store efforts to reduce food waste, such as improved store fixtures, standardized date labels, and associate and shopper education.
- All of the companies researched have food donation programs, with the majority operating company wide. ALDI was the only company that did not report a food recycling program (e.g., composting, animal feed or other industrial uses).
“Customers have taken notice of the massive problem of wasted food and want businesses to take responsibility and action,” Jordan Figueiredo, creator of the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign, says. “That’s why we’re calling on American supermarkets to do their part and commit to eliminating food waste by 2025. Eliminating food waste in the grocery sector could have a ripple effect across society that could help address hunger, save money and protect the environment.”