“Waste not, want not,” proclaim the parents of children who refuse to polish off their scraps. So why has the childish simplicity of this common-sense complaint eluded the food industry itself? The UN believes that a third of all packaged food is lost between the farm and the consumer and never even eaten. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that food waste accounts for a gobsmacking 8 to 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The supply chain is a mess.
Recently, however, Finnish supermarket firm S-Market hatched a plan for shifting stock before its cut-off date. The so-called “happy hour” scheme offers shoppers a 60 per cent discount on soon-to-be-binned stock come 21.00 and in its 900-odds shops nationwide. It’s a small bite at a bigger problem – like charging for plastic bags, embracing ugly onions and honouring a keep-cup system – but it’s a worthwhile one given the scale of the issue at hand. The canniness of S-Market’s scheme is that it delivers savings to customers, brand goodwill and an easy-to-swallow conclusion that all well-brought-up CEOs will have chewed over in childhood: namely, waste not, want not.