News / Food Waste

Supermarkets drive food waste on UK farms

A new report by Feedback reveals the shocking scale of food waste on farms.

Farmers surveyed for the report wasted on average 10–16% on typical years, equal to around 22,000–37,000 tonnes. This is enough food to provide around 200,000 people with five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for a whole year.

Feedback, who are a member of Sustain, believe farm level waste is a symptom of overproduction due to UK supermarkets demanding consistent, high availability of cosmetically perfect produce.

Feedback’s research showed the following supermarket practices drive waste:

  • Cosmetic specifications – supermarkets dictate strict cosmetic specifications to farmers meaning they will buy fresh produce that fits exacting size, shape and colour specifications –regardless of the nutrition, taste and value of the food.
  • Failure to market seasonal produce – certain weather conditions can lead to gluts. A cauliflower glut occurred in the UK in 2017 which resulted in large amounts of cauliflowers going to waste.
  • Cancelled or altered orders – a significant driver of waste is the difference between buyers’ forecasts and confirmed orders, including last-minute order cancellations.
  • Concentration of power among supermarkets – the UK food retail market is one of the most concentrated in Europe. Nearly half of the surveyed farmers reported that industry concentration in retail has led to less outlets for surplus produce, like traditional grocers and markets.

Read the full report here.

Sustain annual conference - 8 December

Book now

Published 5 Mar 2018

Food Waste: Sustain supports a reduction in food surplus, loss and waste.

Latest related news


Sustain annual conference - 8 December

Support our charity

Donate to enhance the health and welfare of people, animals and the planet.


The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

020 3559 6777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

© Sustain 2022
Registered charity (no. 1018643)
Data privacy & cookies