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Reducing food waste, the strategy of Coop Italia

Reducing food waste is a crucial goal to which Coop Italia - the Italian pioneer of sustainability in the retail area– has dedicated since 2015, the strategy Coop for future .

The most famous initiatives in Italy are 'Buon fine' and 'Mangiami subito', thanks to their significant impact in social, environmental and economic terms (1,2). But there is much more.

Chiara Faenza – manager for sustainability and innovation of values ​​in Coop Italia – shares with GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) vision and commitments on the front food waste.

1) Prevention of food waste, the role of retail

The agribusiness as a whole, participates in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, globally, in the respective shares of approximately 30% and 22%. And a significant share of consumption and emissions - the estimate of which is still uncertain, pending shared data collection methods (3) - is absorbed by food losses and waste.

The GDO (Large-scale organised distribution, retail) has a fundamental role in the prevention of food waste, taking into account:

  • brand product designprivate-label), management and quality control on huge volumes of food,
  • proximity and ease of interaction with consumers,
  • vocation to partnerships with other operators and networking with associations and charities.

2) Coop Italia, the EU Code of Conduct

Coop Italy is the first retailer , as well as one of the first 65 European operators to have adhered to the EU Code of Conduct on commercial and marketing managers in the food sector. With a code of conduct that outweighs the feared risks of greenwashing of the European initiative – thanks to the concreteness and effectiveness of the commitments from farm to fork – also in the fight against food waste.

3) The project 'Buon Fine'

'Buon fine' is the project developed by Coop Italia – which in the past contributed to the development in Italy of the 'law of the good Samaritan' – in collaboration with voluntary associations and bodies. For the donation of food suitable for consumption but 'unsellable', such as perishable food unsold at the end of the day and products with damaged packaging (unspoiled from an organoleptic and hygienic point of view).

'The cooperatives donated 5.642 tons of food – capable of generating over 11 million meals – for a value of approximately 28 million euros. For the benefit of 938 voluntary associations and organizations throughout Italy. The 'Buon Fine' involved 60% of the distribution network, corresponding to 680 points of sale', explains Chiara Faenza. And the project has been integrated, in recent years, with the redistribution of parapharmaceuticals, petfood baby food.

4) The project 'Mangiami subito'

'Mangiami subito' is the Coop Italia project which provides for a discount of up to 50% on unsold food products close to the expiry date. Fresh packaged and very fresh products, such as dairy products and cured meats, red and white meats, fish and fourth range (packaged fruit and vegetables).

The initiative currently involves 836 sale points, which represent 75% of the distribution network of the member cooperatives. In some cases, the sale has also been extended to products with partially damaged packaging, in compliance with hygiene and food safety requirements.

The total value of food sales at discounted prices of up to 50% thanks to the project 'Mangiami subito', in 2022, exceeded 38 million euros.

5) Culture of responsible consumption

'The culture is one of the determining elements of social welfare and serves responsible consumption, social dialogue and active citizenship'.

Coop strongly believes in the role of the supermarket as an educator of the consumer and must act to guide and build demand together.

Thus a virtuous circle is created which is the same one that builds the circular economy, in which all the elements influence each other' (Chiara Faenza, Coop Italia).

5.1) 'use-by' and '.'

An epochal turning point was the expiration date replacement (use-by) with the minimum conservation term (bestbefore) – on the labels of some foods such as yoghurt and fermented milks – on Coop brand products, in line with the EFSA recommendations (2020)

The campaigns awareness-raising campaigns are essential to give relevance to responsible consumption. Follow the storage conditions indicated on the label, understand the difference between the expiry date and the shelf life, to avoid unnecessary food waste.

5.2) The project 'School re-generation'

'School re-generation' is the Coop Italia project aimed at contributing to the education of students in schools on social and environmental issues associated with the choices of consumption and use of products and services.

Food safety  and food security, integrity and transparency of supply chains, quality of life (environment and health), work ethic, conscious use of technologies and website.

6) Sustainable packaging

The strategy Coop for Future includes a series of interventions for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and food waste also through sustainable packaging. The reduction of materials alone has already made it possible to save around 2,9 million tonnes of C02 between 2015 and 2020. And it is still growing, thanks to the participation of 85% of suppliers of Coop brand products.

The National Packaging Consortium (CONAI) awarded Coop Italia 75 awards, between 2019 and 2022, for its own brand sustainable packaging. Besides having it premiata, in 2021, for theecodesign of packaging in the context of the circular economy. And to have nominated her as the only one retailer, to the prize Best Sustainability Brands 2022.

6.1) Eco design of the the packaging, waste sorting

'An eco-design packaging it must respond to fundamental needs, without which it would be unusable. In the first place it must guarantee the hygiene and safety of the food, it must be sustainable both from an environmental and an economic point of view, finally it must be machinable and logistically valid' (Chiara Faenza, Coop Italy).

The innovation requires work'of continuous implementation of eco-compatibility with suppliers', which concerns the packaging of each category of branded products as well as the boxes for moving goods. And it is accompanied by rigorous procedures, to improve separate waste collection at points of sale.

7) European research, upcycling

'We are very interested in the perspective of integrate products obtained with upcycling processes within our supply chain and we are currently involved in two European research consortia in this area', adds Chiara Faenza.

The circular economy it is in fact one of the priorities of European research programs (Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe). And Coop Italia participates, also thanks to our Wiise benefit, (5) in the projects

  • ProFuture, for using microalgae as new sustainable plant protein sources in the food chain, (6)
  • EcoeFISHent, for the virtuous recovery of waste from the fish chain and their own upcycling in nutraceutical and cosmetic ingredients. (7)

#Wasteless! (8,9)

Dario Dongo and Giulia Pietrollini

Footnotes

(1) Coop Alliance 3.0. Happy ending, a cooperative action to fight waste together
https://www.coopalleanza3-0.it/cooperativa/comunita/buon-fine.html

(2) Co-op Shop. Eat me now: discounts on expiring products https://www.coopshop.it/p/mangiami-subito-sconti-sui-prodotti-in-scadenza/

(3) United Nations. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022. 7.7.22 https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2022/

(4) Coop. Code of Conduct. 29.4.22 https://food.ec.europa.eu/horizontal-topics/farm-fork-strategy/sustainable-food-processing/code-conduct_en#signatories

(5) Dario Dongo. Wiise Srl benefit company, impact report 2021GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade)... 6.9.22

(6) Dario Dongo. ProFuture, microalgae to feed the planet. The EU research projectGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.6.19

(7) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. EcoeFISHent, upcycling and blue economy in the fish supply chain. The EU research projectGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.10.21

(8) Wasteless is the European project in Horizon Europe with the aim of creating tools to monitor food losses and waste and collect and share, through a toolbox, best practices for reusing waste aimed at all stakeholders in the food chain food value. https://wastelesseu.com/

(9) Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Wasteless, EU research project on circular economy and blockchain. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.9.22

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