Co-op axes ‘best before’ on 150 fresh produce lines

Manchester-based Co-op Group has announced that many of its “Best Before” dates on fresh fruit and veg are set to disappear as it axes the dates from more than 150 lines of fresh produce in a move designed to help customers cut food waste in the home and save money.

“Shoppers will see changes in store later this month (February) with best before dates removed from all of Co-op’s fresh produce – including: apples; oranges; tomatoes, carrots; potatoes; onions and broccoli – with the exception of a small number of the more perishable products, or where it can be harder to use visual cues and judgement to establish the suitability to consume,” said Co-op Group.

“Product life testing by (climate action NGO) WRAP shows that fruit and veg can be good to eat well beyond the best before date when stored in optimal conditions, including: broccoli – where the difference between the best before date and the first sign of deterioration was found to be 15 days; potatoes – where the difference was 20 days and, apples – which was in excess of 70 days.

“With households accounting for around 70% of UK food waste, data also shows that date codes can drive consumer behaviour on deciding when to dispose of fresh produce.

“So, alongside the removal of best before dates, Co-op is also introducing on-pack guidance to highlight the optimum storage conditions to prolong product life.”

Co-op Group, owned by millions of UK consumers, operates over 2,500 food stores, over 800 funeral homes and provides products to over 5,000 other stores, including those run by independent co-operative societies and through its wholesale business, Nisa Retail Limited.

Employing almost 60,000 people, Co-op has an annual turnover of over £11 billion and is a recognised leader for its social goals and community-led programmes.

Adele Balmforth, Propositions Director, Co-op, said: “As we face into a climate, environmental and cost-of-living crisis we are committed to helping our customers cut food waste in the home and save money.

“Date codes can drive decisions in the home, and result in good food being thrown away – which has a cost to both people and to our planet.

“In addition to axing best before dates on fresh fruit and vegetables, our inclusion of storage instructions can also help products last longer and, sits alongside our simple on-pack message for shoppers – ‘If it still looks good enough to eat, it is.”

Catherine David, Director of Collaboration and Change at WRAP, said:“We’re delighted to see the Co-op continue to take action to reduce household food waste, saving customers money and conserving the planet’s precious resources.

“We know from our research that removing the date labels on fruit and veg will help people throw less good food in the bin. And the on-pack information which Co-op will be introducing that outlines the best storage conditions to prolong product life will be an invaluable tool for people wanting to make the most of the food they buy.

“The average family spends £700 year on good food which ends up in the bin – moves like this from the Co-op help to change that.”