Southern Co-op extends scheme to sell products past their best before date

The move is part of the society’s efforts to tackle the problem of food waste

Nearly 100 Southern Co-op stores will be selling selected products past their ‘best before’ date, the society has announced as it continues efforts to reduce food waste.

The date relates to quality, not the safety of the product and Southern says it wants to keep more produce in the human food chain. It is expanding its Reducing Our Foodprint initiative with products being reduced to just 20p.

All store waste is currently diverted from landfill with food broken down to produce biogas and bio-fertiliser, the society added.

Chief operating officer Simon Eastwood said: “Customer feedback from the trials of this scheme has been largely positive with many of the products being snapped up as soon as they get reduced.

“There are a large number of products that are still good enough to eat past their ‘best before’ date – many of us are already familiar with this in our home environment so this just takes it one step further.

“The first stage in the fight against food waste is to make sure there aren’t products reaching their best before date. But if they do, we will now be reducing them to 20p to try and keep them in the food chain and improve sustainability.”

The initial trial of the initiative took place at 13 of the society’s stores, with most products sold within a day of being reduced. Between April and September 2021, there were 16,862 items processed at the 20p price point across 11 of the 13 stores.

Stores included in the Reducing our Foodprint initiative are based across Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Somerset, Surrey and Wiltshire.

Fresh products will be sold up to two days after their ‘best before’ date and ambient products will be sold up to seven days after their ‘best before’ date.

Examples of products included in the reduction initiative include tinned fruit and veg, dried pasta and rice, confectionery, selected condiments, sugar and sweeteners, coffee, tea and jams as well as chilled products such as soft fruit and fruit juices.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) advises that products past their ‘best before’ date are safe to consume but may not be at the optimum quality intended by the producer.