Co-op UK to Eliminate Fruit & Veg Best Before Dates

Best before dates on fresh fruit and veg are set to ‘expire’ as Co-op UK axes the dates from more than 150 lines of fresh produce in a move designed to help customers cut food waste in the home and save money, the convenience retailer has today confirmed.

Shoppers will see changes in store later this month (February) with best before dates removed from all of Co-op’s fresh produce – including: apples; oranges; tomatoes, carrots; potatoes; onions and broccoli – with the exception of a small number of the more perishable products, or where it can be harder to use visual cues and judgement to establish the suitability to consume.

Product life testing by climate action NGO WRAP shows that fruit and veg can be good to eat well beyond the best before date when stored in optimal conditions, including: broccoli – where the difference between the best before date and the first sign of deterioration was found to be 15 days; potatoes – where the difference was 20 days and, apples – which was in excess of 70 days.

With households accounting for around 70% of UK food waste, data also shows that date codes can drive consumer behavior on deciding when to dispose of fresh produce. So, alongside the removal of best before dates, Co-op is also introducing on-pack guidance to highlight the optimum storage conditions to prolong product life.

Adele Balmforth, Propositions Director, Co-op, said: “As we face into a climate, environmental and cost-of-living crisis we are committed to helping our customers cut food waste in the home and save money. Date codes can drive decisions in the home, and result in good food being thrown away – which has a cost to both people and to our planet. In addition to axing best before dates on fresh fruit and vegetables, our inclusion of storage instructions can also help products last longer and, sits alongside our simple on-pack message for shoppers – ‘If it still looks good enough to eat, it is!”

The move follows a small scale trial last year, in addition, last year Co-op introduced a ‘freeze me’ message to its Retail-own Brand milk products in a bid to cut down on milk being wasted at home. Figures from WRAP, highlight that more than more than £150 million worth of milk is wasted each year, with milk wasted in the home contributing to 90 per cent of this.

Further, last Spring (2022) Co-op announced a move to scrap ‘use-by’ dates from all of its Retail-own Brand yogurts, replacing them with best-before dates. Research from WRAP has shown that 50% of yogurts are thrown away in unopened packs and 70% of the all the yogurt wasted in the home was due to yogurts ‘not being used in time’, with the date label cited as the reason. Co-op’s guidance aims to encourage shoppers to check the quality of the product and use visual cues to establish the suitability to consume.

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By Published On: February 20th, 2023Tags:

About the Author: Christopher Durham

Christopher Durham is the president of the Velocity Institute. Prior to this he founded the groundbreaking site My Private Brand. He is the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He began his retail career building brands at Food Lion and Lowe’s Home Improvement. Durham has worked with retailers around the world, including Albertsons, Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro Canada. Durham has published seven definitive books on private brands, including Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project and Vanguard: Vintage Originals.