Food for Thought:
Unlocking the Economic and Social Benefits of Food Redistribution
City Harvest: The Value of Food Redistribution Report
Download the Food Value Report & learn about food poverty, food waste, and the value of working with a food redistribution solution provider.
Rising prices & decreasing profits:
How giving away is the new way to save in the UK food industry.
We have all felt the effects of the rising cost of food over the last few years, creating a significant burden on the public as well as the food industry. Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and consequent inflation have all played a part. The food industry has had to manage increases in energy and operational costs as well as lost output due to labour shortages and supply chain issues. At the same time, supply chain shocks have resulted in the generation of surplus food, the disposal of which creates an additional cost to farmers, manufacturers, and retailers. This occurs at a time when consumers, faced with the cost-of-living crisis, have limited ability to purchase fresh produce and are trading nutritious food for less healthy and cheaper alternatives as a result. *1
However, the food industry, particularly farmers, manufacturers and retailers, can mitigate some of these costs — specifically those associated with the disposal of food waste — by the simple act of redistributing the still-edible elements within their waste stream. To understand the views and attitudes of food businesses towards redistribution, City Harvest surveyed its food donors.
of donors find redistribution to be effortless with City Harvest
Only 11% of donors see cost savings as a motivator for donation
On average, only 60% of generated surplus food is redistributed.
Redistribution is a process whereby surplus food that might otherwise be wasted is rescued from food businesses and delivered to partner agencies and community programmes to help feed people experiencing food insecurity. *2
The Road to Redistribution
Redistribution plays a pivotal role in alleviating the mounting financial burdens faced by both the food industry and individuals in the United Kingdom.
Stop 1: Farming Sector
decrease in profits due to increased production costs *3
Farmers receive 1% or less of profit margins, on average, when selling to retailers. *4
increase in the cost of energy prices for farmers in the past year *5 64,500 tonnes of consumable food processed by AD each year the loss of more than 150 million meals * 8 Stop 2: Manufacturing Sector
output lost due to labour shortages in the first half of 2023
value of goods that cannot be finished or sold *10
Did you know?
£1 invested in food loss and reduction activities
£14 return for a business in the food industry *12
Redistribution is both a cost-saving mechanism and a way to get fresh produce to the most vulnerable families.
|Farming||1.6 million tonnes||882 million meals|
|Manufacturing||1.9 million tonnes||1.07 billion meals|
|Retail||0.3 million tonnes||162.38 million meals|
of donors believe City Harvest adds value to redistribution by providing:
Stop 3: Retail Sector
decrease of real revenue for the retail sector * 17
increase in the average price of fresh produce * 18
Marketing Standards Perpetuate Food Surplus.
Cosmetic standards are the primary reason for food surplus generation for City Harvest’s donors. Standards imposed on the food industry such as size, shape and physical blemishes cause 4.5 million tonnes of fresh produce to be wasted in the UK every year. *19
As 400g is needed per person to fulfil the daily requirement for five portions of fresh produce for a healthy diet, rerouting even 1,880 tonnes of the surplus produced by cosmetic standards a year will help the 4.7 million food insecure people in the UK receive their five-a-day. *20 *21
Stop 4: People
GB Sustainability Manager
Brexit added £250 to household food bills between December 2019 and March 2023. *24
City Harvest’s Social Return on Investment (SROI)
1t = £3,550
Founder and CGO
Breakdown of the Key Categories for Social Impact on Food Donors & Charities.
Costs to provide meals Savings for charities in both fuel and staff labour costs as a result of not having to purchase food themselves
Reduced cost of transport to disposal where food is collected by CH Reduced cost of disposal via landfill, compost and incineration.
City Harvest’s Social Return on Investment (SROI)
For every £1 invested in City Harvest, £11.90 of value is created each year for society.
Facilitate a non-exclusive regulatory environment conducive to food redistribution: Governments can provide guidelines and incentives to encourage businesses to engage in food redistribution through tax subsidies, funds to support the logistics for businesses to redistribute and simplifying liability protection laws. Governments should positively endorse and praise partnerships that reroute surplus food from premature disposal to people and charities in need
Celebrate the transparency of food waste reporting: Sustainability leads should encourage and reward their partners for reporting their food waste instead of penalising them when auditing their supply chain for food wastage. The indicators should be beyond numbers and allow stakeholders to communicate their food waste management methods, including redistributing their food to those in need. Organisations who engage in these activities should be viewed as attractive and sustainable business partners.
1. Competition and Markets Authority, Competition, choice and rising prices in groceries (London: Competition and Markets Authority, 2023), 19,https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1172290/Competition__choice_and_rising_prices_in_groceries.pdf.
2. EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, Redistribution of surplus food: Examples of practices in the Member States (Brussels: EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, 2019), 5, https://food.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2019-06/fw_eu-actions_food-donation_ms-practices-food-redis.pdf
3. Sustain, “Unpicking food prices: Where does your food pound go, and why do farmers get so little?,”Sustain, December 2, 2022, https://www.sustainweb.org/reports/dec22-unpicking-food-prices/.
4. Strutt & Parker Rural Hub, “Attention to detail key to improving arable profit margins,”Strutt & Parker Rural Hub, June 12, 2023, https://rural.struttandparker.com/article/attention-to-detail-key-to-improving-arable-profit-margins/.
5. NFU, “Rising costs and workforce shortages leaves horticulture sector on the Brink,”NFUonline, November 15, 2022, https://www.nfuonline.com/updates-and-information/promar-report-the-real-impact-of-cost-pressures-on-the-horticulture-sector/.
6. Paul Marsh, “Anaerobic Digestion Sector to See Taxes Rise by up to 30%: Envirotec,”Envirotec Magazine, December 19, 2022. https://envirotecmagazine.com/2022/12/19/anaerobic-digestion-sector-to-see-taxes-rise-by-up-to-30/.
7. David Cohen, “150 Million Meals a Year Thrown Away Rather than given to Hungry Because of £600m Government Subsidies,”The Independent, June 29, 2021. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/food-waste-subsidy-anaerobic-digestion-b1872768.html.
9. Food and Drink Federation, State of the Industry report Q2 2023(London: Food and Drink Federation, 2023), 4, https://www.fdf.org.uk/globalassets/business-insights-and-economics/fdf-state-of-industry-survey/si-q2-2023.pdf.
10. Barclays, Chain Reaction: How UK manufacturers are tackling supply chain challenges(London: Barclays, 2022), 5, https://www.barclayscorporate.com/insights/industry-expertise/chain-reaction/.
11. Edelman, 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer: Special Report: The Collapse of the Purchase Funnel (New York: Edelman, 2023). https://www.edelman.com/sites/g/files/aatuss191/files/2023-06/Edelman_BrandTrust_Top10.pdf.
12. Craig Hanson and Peter Mitchell, The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste (Washington DC: Champions 12.3, 2017), 2,https://champions123.org/sites/default/files/2020-08/business-case-for-reducing-food-loss-and-waste.pdf.
13. Competition and Markets Authority, Competition, choice and rising prices in groceries(London: Competition and Markets Authority, 2023), 23, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1172290/Competition__choice_and_rising_prices_in_groceries.pdf.
14. Balloon One, “The true cost of food waste in the UK supply chain,”Balloon One, July 11, 2022. https://balloonone.com/blog/2021/11/08/the-true-cost-of-food-waste-in-the-uk-supply-chain/.
16. Competition and Markets Authority, Competition, choice and rising prices in groceries (London: Competition and Markets Authority, 2023), 8, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1172290/Competition__choice_and_rising_prices_in_groceries.pdf.
18. Shona Goudie, The Broken Plate 2023: The State of the Nation’s Food System(London: Food Foundation, 2023), 10, https://www.foodfoundation.org.uk/publication/broken-plate-2023.
19. Dr. Stephen Porter, “The Beauty of Ugly Fruit,” The University of Edinburgh, April 24, 2019. https://www.ed.ac.uk/edinburgh-friends/supplements/beauty-ugly-fruit#:~:text=Their%20study%20estimates%20that%20over,up%20to%204.5%20million%20tonnes.
20. Brigid Francis-Devine, Shadi Danechi and Xameerah Malik, Food Poverty: Households, Food Banks and Free School Meals(London: House of Commons Library, 2023), 8, https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9209/.
21. World Health Organization, “Healthy Diet,” World Health Organization, April 29, 2020, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet.
22. Shona Goudie, The Broken Plate 2023: The State of the Nation’s Food System (London: Food Foundation, 2023), 30, https://www.foodfoundation.org.uk/publication/broken-plate-2023.
23. Shona Goudie, The Broken Plate 2023: The State of the Nation’s Food System(London: Food Foundation, 2023), 8, https://www.foodfoundation.org.uk/publication/broken-plate-2023.
AI/AR Artwork by Yanis Georges. The report cover artwork, ‘The Harmonious Rhythm of Generosity’ illustrates the positive ripple effect of City Harvest’s services on society. Yanis’s mesmerising 3D animation and series of stills represent City Harvest’s network, showing the beauty of food redistribution. Use the Artivive App and hold your phone over the cover of the report to watch and listen as every City Harvest ‘green thread’ creates a yellow food delivery and an immediate pink ripple effect on ‘people’. This beautiful animation cycle represents City Harvest‘s monthly impact. Yanis’s work — like ours — is beautifully relentless. This LED installation and AI stills can be seen, along with photography from our People Report, in a roaming exhibition around London to display the ‘Beauty of Food Redistribution’. Find out more: cityharvest.org.uk/art