Co-op scraps use-by dates on own-brand yogurts

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: Getty Images/vavlt
Pic: Getty Images/vavlt

Related tags: Cooperative, Co-op group, Yoghurt, Yogurt, best before date

UK retailer Co-op is getting rid of use-by dates from all of its own-brand yogurts in a bid to reduce food waste and combat the 42,000 tonnes – £100m ($127.6m) worth – of edible yogurt thrown away by UK householders each year, due to guidance printed on pack.

The industry-first move will see the UK company replace on-pack ‘use by’ guidance with ‘best before’ dates on its entire range of own-brand yogurts, which it said will help shoppers prevent unnecessary food waste at home.

The company said 6m people in the UK consume a yogurt each day, and research from WRAP has shown 50% of yogurts are thrown away in unopened packs and 70% of the all the yogurt wasted in the home was due to ‘not being used in time’, with the date label cited as the reason.

Nick Cornwell, head of food technical at Co-op, said, “Yogurt can be safe to eat if stored unopened in a fridge after the date mark shown, so we have made the move to best before dates to help reduce food waste. The acidity of yogurt acts as a natural defence and we’d encourage shoppers to use their judgement on the quality of their yogurt if it is past the best before date.”

Traditionally, yogurts have carried ‘use by’ dates and guide shoppers to not consume past the specified date, whereas ‘best before’ refers to quality and often allows for the food to be eaten after that date.

Testing shows the product is safe to consume past its listed expiration date and that the main change is of quality. Co-op’s new guidance aims to encourage shoppers to check the quality of the product and use visual cues to establish the suitability to consume.

Cornwell said, “Data from WRAP has suggested that 70% of food waste happens within the home setting. It’s our ambition to help our members and customers to make small changes that will collectively make a big impact and combat unnecessary food waste.

“Controlling food waste is not only beneficial for managing household budgets, it also has an environmental benefit and will ultimately help reduce carbon emissions. We encourage more retailers and brands to review their on-pack guidance and make the switch to best before dates for yogurts.”

Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at WRAP, said, “We’re delighted to see Co-op making this change to its entire yogurt range, as we know that the date label on yogurt is a fundamental reason that it is wasted at home. Wasting food feeds climate change and costs money. Applying a best before date helps give people the confidence to use their judgement to eat beyond a best before date and use more of the yogurt they buy – protecting the planet and their pockets.

“We’d encourage all food businesses to follow WRAP/FSA/Defra best practice and identify where products, especially dairy items, like yogurt, can have a best before date applied and to make that change wherever possible. This action from Co-op shows what a fantastic opportunity there is to stop unnecessary food waste.”

In 2021, Co-op removed date labels on several fresh produce lines as part of an ongoing trial and also offers on pack storage advice on a number of its ranges to help cut waste.

Co-op will introduce best before dates to its own-brand yogurts from May and will have the full range amended by October 2022.

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