As the negative economic, environmental, and social implications of food waste become clearer, innovative solutions are emerging to address this growing problem. Retailers and brands have attempted to minimise food waste by inspiring consumers to act responsibly through various marketing campaigns. However, offering discounts on items to prevent such waste from occurring appears to be one of the most effective strategies in mitigating this problem. Holland & Barrett, UK Health retailer, is realising this potential as it launches a new initiative to sell items past their best before dates across all its outlets.

After trialling the concept at selected branches last year, Holland & Barrett will now install a dedicated area in all 800 of its branches for customers to purchase food and drink that are past their ‘best before’ dates at significantly discounted prices. Items that are sold beyond their ‘best before’ date remain safe to consume, provided they remain of acceptable quality, a fact perhaps lesser known among consumers. This move will undoubtedly serve to educate, raising awareness that it is perfectly safe to consume these products, while also saving tonnes of potential food waste and providing personal savings.

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This initiative is likely to be bolstered by the present demand for affordable products, reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on personal finances. Almost half (45%) of UK consumers agree that they are on a tight budget when shopping for products for their household. Additionally, over a third of UK consumers (37%) agree that having a reduced environmental footprint is now more important to them following the pandemic. The application of a large discount to products that are past their best before dates is thus a viable strategy for closing the value-action gap that often exists between the intention to follow sustainable ideals and reality falling short.

Furthermore, Holland & Barrett, along with other retailers, will benefit from the growing consumer acceptance of food that does not align with traditional indicators of quality. For example, the release of ‘wonky veg’ boxes by UK supermarket chain Asda demonstrated consumer willingness to purchase produce that would have otherwise been discarded purely for aesthetic reasons. Holland & Barrett is therefore well positioned to capture the attention of a wide consumer base who are broadening their understanding of what constitutes a quality product, and who are interested in purchasing products that are past their best before dates if this positively impacts the environment.

Going forward, opportunities exist for other retailers to adopt similar measures. Key will be recognising the importance of incentivising consumers through discounted offerings and effectively communicating that such products do indeed retain their quality past their best before dates, and how this can help to achieve personal and societal sustainability goals.