Southern Co-op teams up with Too Good To Go on food waste

The latest initiative is part of a range of measures to move food from recycling and ‘into the hands of customers and good causes’

Southern Co-op is the latest independent retail society to link up with Too Good To Go to offer Magic Bags of food past its best-before date.

Too Good To Go’s app allows customers to buy surplus food and drink products from local Southern Co-op sites which are near to their expiry date.

This is the first stage of a new food pathway being rolled out by the society across its nearly 200 stores. The second stage will see other initiatives to save food that has gone past its best before date – either by reducing it to 20p or donating it to local good causes.

Retail co-ops East of England and Midcounties have also recently announced partnerships with Too Good To Go.

Gemma Lacey, Southern’s director for sustainability and communications, said: “All of these programmes involve a different method of improving food sustainability. By combining them together and making sure they are right for each store, we hope we can prevent food from going off to be recycled and get more into the hands of customers and good causes.

“It will benefit our customers as snapping up a Magic Bag could help those who are finding budgets tight as well as dozens of charities who can make use of goods past their best before date – which is a date that relates to quality, not the safety of the product.”

All store waste is currently diverted from landfill and any unsold food sent off for anaerobic digestion, with food broken down to produce biogas and bio-fertiliser.

As part of the Too Good To Go trial, Magic Bags of food will be available for just a third of the cost at £3.29 – with an original value of £10 or more.

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Originally trialled at 12 stores since 31 January and a further 26 from 19 April, so far more than 7,000 Magic Bags have been saved by customers.

Simon Eastwood, Southern’s chief operating officer for retail, said: “The initiatives relating to best before dates will be rolled out over the summer and will see every store either donating food and drink to local good causes or having products reduced to 20p.

“As we are mainly convenience stores, it hasn’t been beneficial for charities to collect food from our stores in the past as the amount and type of food at the end of the day is often unreliable. On some days it could be a few bread products but on other days it could be a range of fruit, veg or pasta.

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“However, thanks to our partner Neighbourly, charities and local community groups can now find out what products our stores can donate before they leave their base, which makes a big difference and will help to make it a success.”

At the end of each day, the store notifies a local connected good cause through Neighbourly about which food and drink items are available to collect. If the charity is unable to pick up, then it is offered to a second linked local cause.

This has already been tested at 27 stores in Bristol and Bournemouth since 21 March and a total of four tonnes of food has already been donated. This is the equivalent of £17,000 worth of food and 9,000 meals that are going to individuals in need.

The Matthew Tree Project in Bristol, which has received produce from the scheme, said: “We give the produce out to our clients in our food deliveries. This contributes towards the balanced range of foods which we deliver to our clients, enabling struggling and hungry families and individuals in Bristol to eat.”

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