April 1, 2018
Supermarkets have an enormous influence on the food system. That influence extends to the environmental footprint of food waste — from farm to fork. 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 (Escaron, A. 2013). Food waste has become a critical issue in recent decades. Roughly 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten — costing more than $200 billion each year and creating unnecessary impacts on water supplies, clean air, climate and wildlife (ReFED, 2016). This report analyzes key food-waste reduction commitments, policies and actions across the top supermarket chains in the United States. Using publicly available information and details provided by company officials, we evaluated and graded 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 analysis was also applied to Tesco U.K. as an example of a major European supermarket that has adopted effective food-waste reduction policies.Our key findings:Nine out of America's 10 largest grocery companies fail to publicly report their total volume of food waste. Ahold Delhaize was the only company that publicly reported its total food-waste volume.The four companies that earned a C grade or higher overall were the only ones with specific food-waste reduction commitments. Kroger leads the way with a commitment of zero food waste by 2025.Four of the 10 companies have no "imperfect-produce initiatives," which can prevent the waste of fruits and vegetables considered too "imperfect" for retail sale.Walmart was the only company with a variety of clear in-store efforts to reduce food waste, such as improving store fixtures, standardizing date labels, and educating associates and shoppers.All 10 of the companies 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 or a program to reuse unsold food as animal feed or for other industrial uses).