Reducing food waste and increasing profits for ASDA

A collaborative research project with ASDA to identify, execute and evaluate interventions that significantly reduced food waste and increased brand loyalty amongst customers, and drove the development of new sustainability strategies and product ranges.

The Challenge

Households in the UK are estimated to waste 7.3 tonnes of edible food and drink every year – approximately a third of what they purchase for consumption.

The supermarket retailer ASDA, its 18 million customers and wider society have much to gain in finding ways to reduce food wastage. In choosing to work with the University of Leeds, ASDA’s objectives were three-fold: to reduce the environmental impact of their customers through encouraging positive behavioural changes which could, in turn, save customers money and enhance brand loyalty; to identify opportunities for new sustainable products and cost savings for ASDA through its supply chain; and to attract new customers through improving ASDA’s sustainability credentials.

The Approach

ASDA and the University of Leeds established a research collaboration to identify, develop, implement and measure a range of strategies to change food waste behaviours and inform new product development.

Working with the University’s Sustainability Research Institute and Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, ASDA entered into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership through which two recent Leeds graduates were embedded with ASDA to conduct the research.

The Solution

Working closely with ASDA employees and customers, the research team co-produced three strands of activity. Firstly they designed and conducted a new form of sustainability survey to better understand customer behaviours and needs. This research helped prove that there was significant commercial opportunity for ASDA in helping customers address food waste, with 93% of customers claiming to care about ‘being green’, and 85% saying they looked to retailers to help them reduce food waste at home. The analysis of the research findings informed subsequent phases of the project and ASDA’s wider sustainability strategy.

Secondly, over a 21 month period, the team designed, executed and evaluated a number of interventions through communications and packaging to influence customer behaviour in store and at home. This multi-channel campaign focused on providing customers with advice on everything from food storage and labelling, to creative recipe inspiration for leftovers. Meanwhile, in-store events encouraged customers to publicly pledge to make changes in their own homes.

Finally, the team conducted analysis of ASDA’s green product lines and purchase behaviours to better understand opportunities for future product development.

The Impact

The project was demonstrated to have a positive effect on customer behaviour, with 81% of customers saying they planned to follow the advice provided and two million customers having made changes in their households as a result of the interventions. Those households involved were shown to have saved on average £57 per annum by adopting ASDA’s recommendations.

ASDA benefited from increased profits through increased customer loyalty and reduction of packaging. The project also informed ASDA’s long-term sustainability strategy and development of new green product lines, and has positively impacted on the brand’s association with sustainability amongst customers.

We now have a greater understanding of customer attitude and behaviour, helping shape the way we communicate with our customers and ultimately the way we do business.

To find out more about a potential research collaboration with us, get in touch.