Working hard to minimise waste in the supply chain

A UK project to reduce the quantity of potatoes failing to meet stringent supermarket specifications was highlighted at the World Potato Congress.

Simon Bowen, technical director at Solanum UK and Alan Wilson, technical manager for agronomy at Waitrose, discussed their joint ‘War on Waste’ project.

Packer Solanum, part of the Produce World group, works with 30 growers to supply Waitrose with its fresh potatoes.

Although the standards of the supermarket and its growers are among the best in the country, there was still concern over the amount of potatoes which could not be sold.

In 2008 the business decided to quantify the waste in the chain. They found an average loss from field to supermarket shelf of 42 per cent, although some of those rejected potatoes would be sold to secondary lower value markets.

A strategic approach identifying and addressing problems had since been implemented.

Its aim was to reduce waste to 33 per cent by 2011. Dr Bowen said, that in a difficult year, this target was missed by just 3 per cent.

Solanum/Waitrose survey findings

  • 6 per cent loss at field level n 12 per cent grading loss
  • 5 per cent storage loss
  • 1 per cent loss in failure to meet specifications or over packing
  • Up to 22 per cent post washing loss

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