A Yorkshire entrepreneur is calling for better produce labelling to tackle food waste.
Approved Food founder Dan Cluderay says the current system of food safety dates confuses shoppers, leading to items needlessly being thrown away.
Figures from charity Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) show 15 million tonnes of food is thrown out each year, with 50 per cent of this coming from homes.
It estimates around 15 per cent of edible food and drink purchases are thrown away, costing households £480 per year.
The current food labelling system is unclear and contributes to shoppers binning goods unnecessarily, Mr Cluderay said.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “Right now, there are four dates for food labelling.
“‘Use by’ is about health and safety, whereas ‘best before’ is about optimum quality.
“Supermarkets also use ‘display by’ and ‘sell by’.
“If I stopped someone in the street and asked, ‘tell me which one is which’, nobody could.”
Since launching in 2008, Sheffield-based Approved Food estimates it has saved 3.6 million items from going to landfill.
The £4m-turnover business sells products that are close to or past their best before dates via its online shop.
Education is crucial to tackling food waste, Mr Cluderay said.
“People need to know that packet of biscuits in the cupboard isn’t a ticking bomb,” he said.
“Nobody knows because nobody has been educated about it.
“A report might say, ‘we can add a week on these dates and it will still be safe and we’ll save millions of tonnes of waste’.
“But if you don’t understand it, you’re still going to be unsure and end up throwing it in the bin.”
There is now a generation of consumers who are over reliant on dates, despite making judgements on some items instinctively, Mr Cluderay said.
“When you pick an apple from the tree and it’s sat in your fruit bowl, there’s no best before date on it,” he said. “When it’s gone wrinkly and discoloured, you make a common-sense judgement that you shouldn’t eat it.
“It’s just like seeing a tin that has blown or is rusty - common sense tells you not to use it.”
He added: “I want to change the law on labelling because I think it’s ridiculous these decisions to bin good food are being made.”
Approved Food gets its stock from a variety of sources, including wholesalers, retailers and brand owners.
Items are discounted to reflect that they are “short-dated” - close to or past the best before. The store also sells discontinued stock and seasonally out-of-date items, such as Easter eggs, at lower prices.
It has invested heavily in software development to track customer preferences and target shoppers when certain goods come in stock, sending around 200,000 emails a day to alert customers to deals.
Mr Cluderay said: “We have the ability to understand, based on what you’ve purchased, what makes you tick. When items come in, we see who wants to know about it and get in touch.”
In 2012, Approved Food received investment from Tata Steel subsidiary UK Steel Enterprise and Finance Yorkshire.
It has also raised £150,000 through crowdfunding, as well as re-investing profits for growth.
Earlier this year, Mr Cluderay and business partner Andy Needham appeared on Dragons Den.
While the pair did not secure the £150,000 investment sought, Mr Cluderay said the experience was invaluable.
He said: “I worked out that being on the BBC at 9pm is worth about £100,000 a minute in advertising.
“We had 20,000 people viewing our site. We got so much out of it.”
The business is now in the running for £250,000 marketing investment as part of Sir Richard Branson’s enterprise competition.
Approved Food has been shortlisted in the #VOOM: Pitch to Rich 2015 ‘Grow’ category, ranking first in the initial public vote.
The judging panel, including Branson, will now select 90 semi-finalists across three categories before the public vote reopens on June 2.--
Around 15 million tonnes of food is thrown out each year, with 50 per cent of this coming from homes, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates.
By law, all food must include either a ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date on its packaging.
‘Use by’ relates to food safety and denotes items like meat, fish, dairy and some pre-prepared food that should not be consumed after the stated date.
‘Best before’ goods may generally be eaten after the date stated, but their quality will deteriorate.
‘Sell by’ dates, which were introduced by Marks and Spencer in the 1950s, and ‘display until’ dates are used as reference dates for retailers to ensure quality.