From a pea pod soup and vegan avocado cheesecake, to a bread and butter pudding made from the nubs of garlic bread and apple cores, chefs at Tesco’s new headquarters in Welwyn Garden City have been busy experimenting with how they can create meals from edible food waste and selling it to staff – with hints that it could eventually hit stores.
The supermarket’s chief customer officer, Alessandra Bellini, says Tesco will “ideally” start selling meals created from food waste to customers – although whether that would be on the shelves or in cafes, and where it would sit from a pricing perspective, remains unclear at present.
Tesco missed its two-year target of eliminating all edible food waste from its UK operation by 2018. In total, food waste increased from 46,684 tonnes in 2016 to 53,126 tonnes in 2017, although this is still around 0.5% of the total food it sells.
Of that food waste total, two-thirds (64%) of the food waste that is safe for human consumption is now reused, according to independent analysis by KPMG, and the UK’s largest supermarket is making clear moves to edge that figure closer to 100%.
Edible food that doesn’t get sold (or made into gourmet meals for staff) is first reduced to clear for customers, before going to colleagues where items are sold for 1p or given away for free.
Whatever is left goes to charity, which is collected through an app called ‘Community Food Connection’. An alert is sent to local charities that have signed up, which can then come and pick it up. Tesco donated 19 million meals to 7,000 charities in the UK last year.
Trialling cashless stores
Tesco has also been trialling a cashless store at its HQ for the last six weeks, which it says has reduced the average transaction time from 90 seconds to 45. The obvious aim is to reduce queues, but it is hoping to improve security as well.
Some of Tesco’s London stores are already 80% cashless, so the transition should be “relatively straight-forward”, CEO Dave Lewis says, although a roll-out will be done on a “store-by-store” basis and will take into account location and audience (which is, interestingly, also how Tesco decides what music to play in store).
Tesco says it is also in the “very early stages” of what sounds like an Amazon Go-style checkout-less shopping experience, whereby customers will be able to choose products on an app and pay on mobile.
On top of that, the HQ store is kitted out with a fresh orange juice machine that bottles and seals the juice in a matter of seconds.
Tesco might be on the way to solving checkout queue time, but it’s going to have another queueing nightmare on its hands if this one hits the stores.