The frozen food specialist has also announced a target to achieve a 50% cut in food waste in its operations by 2030.
Iceland has signed up to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) Courtauld Commitment 2025, the UK grocery sector’s voluntary agreement to reduce food waste by 20% before the middle of the decade.
In 2019/20, Iceland revealed it sold over 1.3m tonnes of food to its customers and sent zero food to landfill, instead donating it to local communities, converting it into animal feed or, as a last resort, processing it into energy through anaerobic digestion.
The retailer said it has donated 157.8 tonnes of surplus food to people in need through a network of community partnerships and initiatives. For example, via its partnerships with charity the Bread and Butter Thing and social enterprise Community Shop, Iceland donated the equivalent of nearly 375,000 meals in surplus food to deprived communities across the UK.
The retailer revealed it has also found innovative ways to use surplus food, such as sending unsold bread from its Welsh stores to Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. in Newport, to produce its award-winning Bread Board Pale Ale.
As a next step to reducing waste, Iceland has also announced a national rollout of a successful 100-store trial which sees surplus food given to store colleagues at closing time each day.
'Reducing food waste is high on our customers’ agenda'
WRAP recently highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated consumer concern about food waste. “We know that reducing food waste in the home is high on the agenda for many of our customers, and lots of UK families simply can’t afford to throw food away,” an Iceland spokesperson told FoodNavigator.
“In fact, our customers themselves are the experts in reducing food waste, through simple principles such as only using what’s needed and using frozen food to plan ahead, and we have embedded these principles into our strategy to reduce food waste across our operations.”
The spokesperson added that being a frozen food retailer was an advantage when tackling the issue of food waste.
“Our focus on frozen food presents significant benefits in keeping food waste to a minimum – the shelf life of our frozen range can be up to two years meaning we simply don’t have the surplus stock which many supermarkets are looking to reduce in their stores.
“Another benefit of frozen is that we are able to manage stock levels, planning ahead and anticipating consumer trends with very little risk of waste. We continue to champion the benefits of frozen food for customers seeking to reduce food waste in the home, with research showing that switches to frozen can support families in reducing food waste by almost 50%.”
Peter Maddox, Director at WRAP, said he was delighted by the progress Iceland has made to ‘reduce its operational food waste so significantly over the last two years’.
“These are impressive results, and we welcome the company’s commitment to halve its operational food waste in line with UN goals. Publicly reporting shows a long-term commitment to tackling food waste in an efficient and transparent way, and we encourage all food businesses to adopt this approach. As both a Courtauld 2025 signatory and an active participant in the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, Iceland is also helping its customers cut waste in the home, and is an advocate of managing food surplus.”
Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland, said: “Tackling food waste is high on our agenda as one of our many commitments to reduce our impact on the environment. We’ve worked with communities, colleagues and customers to make significant reductions and I am delighted that we have been able to make great strides in reducing our food waste footprint over the past two years.
“We’re continuing to innovate and find new ways to reduce the amount of food wasted across our operations, and our trial to give food to our colleagues is just one of the next steps we’ll be taking to build on our progress so far. I’m looking forward to seeing this in action across our stores and working with colleagues to take the next steps in our food waste reduction journey.”