The Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) was formed over a century ago when a group of grocery retailers joined forces to raise industry standards and provide training in grocery management.

Today the IGD is a research and training charity covering the whole of the supply chain.

It provides intelligence on shoppers, retailing and supply chains, and on wider issues such as health, nutrition, sustainability and economics.

Anne Bordier, Charity Programmes Director, talks about the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, an initiative to reduce the food waste generated by consumer goods companies in their supply chains, and how the IGD co-ordinated a response by the grocery industry to ensure a supply of food to food banks during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Anne, you are Charity Programmes Director for IGD. What exactly does your role involve and what kind of charity work does IGD do?

I head up our charity team, which is responsible for driving social impact from IGD. Our goal is to unite and inspire the food and consumer goods industry, to mobilise it as a force for good. Within our industry, IGD has a unique ability to convene stakeholders from across the whole food and consumer goods system, to address the economic, social and environmental issues that matter to us all.

By sharing knowledge with our industry, driving collaboration and delivering great programmes on specific challenges, we aim to influence change, working across four key areas: people, health, sustainability and economics.

Our work includes: championing food waste reduction to address climate change; making healthy and sustainable diets easy for everyone; giving young people opportunities to develop their employability and life skills; building the skills and knowledge of people working in our industry through our free learning offer; and providing strategic analysis of the economic, social and political challenges that our industry is facing, to help support planning and decision-making.

If that sounds like a lot of work, then it is, but I certainly don’t do it alone! We have a brilliant team of sustainability and learning experts, nutritionists, project managers and economists, to help IGD deliver on its ambition to make a tangible difference to society.

Two years ago, you launched the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. What are the goals of this initiative?

The food we produce and consume to sustain us is also one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Two years ago, we partnered with WRAP to launch the ground-breaking Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, the fundamental goal of which is to help food and consumer goods companies reduce the food waste they create in their supply chains.

The roadmap is based on the principle of asking food companies in the UK to adopt a standardised approach to Target, Measure and Act on their food waste. It is the only nationwide programme operating from field to fork anywhere in the world and is helping the UK work toward its goal of halving food waste by 2030, which is in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issue of food waste sharply into focus for our industry, which will need to manage resources even more efficiently in the future. So this area of IGD’s work will only intensify as we head into 2021.

Two years on from launch, how successful has the Roadmap been so far?

More than 210 UK food businesses have now committed to Target, Measure and Act on their food waste, with 171 businesses already providing evidence to WRAP of how they are doing this. Others have also started on the journey, for example by undertaking measurement and acquiring data before setting a target.

I am really delighted at the significant progress our industry has continued to make on this critical issue in 2020. The latest comparable data shows a 17% reduction in food waste for participating businesses since they started reporting their food waste data to WRAP. Against the challenging backdrop of the last few months, this is no mean feat – and shows how businesses understand the need to keep building resilience into their DNA.

The future looks set to remain challenging, but we must not take our foot off the pedal on this important issue of food waste.

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, IGD pulled industry together to ensure a supply of food to food banks. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

As I mentioned, IGD has a unique ability to convene stakeholders across the whole food and consumer goods system, to address the big societal issues that matter to us all. At the start of the pandemic, we put out a rallying cry and pulled together organisations from across our industry to safeguard a consistent supply of food to food banks. Working with several charitable food redistributors, we were able to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in our society did not go without during the crisis.

Through the crisis, IGD coordinated donations from industry to our charitable food redistribution partners; Defra then later announced a follow-up fund to continue this good work and our industry was able to supply more than 22,000 pallets to food banks. By working together, our industry was able to create a tangible difference by serving the needs of those who rely so heavily on food banks for their daily food essentials.

No good food should go to waste, especially in these challenging times. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the need for our redistribution system to be as robust as it possibly can, so we are better prepared for the impact of any future crises. We will continue to focus on this important issue in the coming weeks and months.

Making healthy and sustainable diets easy for everyone is one of your key priorities. Tell us about the Appetite for Change research you launched earlier this year – what were the findings?

Our Appetite for Change research was originally launched in March 2020. The main headline was that two-thirds (66%) of consumers are already changing their diets or are considering making changes to be healthier and more sustainable. With the advent of COVID-19, we decided to rerun the survey in July 2020 to see how the pandemic and national lockdown had affected consumers’ attitudes.

The new results revealed that there is still a significant appetite for change among UK consumers, but it has shifted down to 57%. The other main findings from this research were:

• There has been a shift in how healthy consumers perceive their diets to be, with people feeling their diets are less healthy during lockdown than in 2019

• Health is now an even bigger motivator for consumers to improve their diet in the wake of COVID-19, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of people citing health as their primary driver up from 58% in 2019

• Perceived higher cost remains the main barrier to healthy and sustainable diets, with 38% of consumers thinking it is more expensive Has consumer behaviour changed as a result of COVID-19?

We faced significant health and environmental challenges before COVID-19 and the global pandemic has brought these issues into the spotlight. The pandemic has reinforced that our diets are inextricably linked with our health, with evidence showing that people living with obesity are 50% more likely to die from COVID-19.

Therefore, consumer behaviour has undoubtedly changed in the wake of COVID-19. Now nearly two-thirds (63%) of people cite health as their primary driver to change their diet up from 58% in 2019 and significantly fewer people are motivated to change for environmental reasons.

As well as health being consumers’ primary driver for change, Appetite for Change shows a significant shift in the value placed on personal health for parents, with 35% of parents valuing their own health as the primary motivator to eat healthily and sustainably in 2020, compared to 24% in 2019. In turn, the importance that parents place on their family’s health has fallen to 31% in 2020 from 39% in 2019, potentially reflecting the lesser impact of COVID-19 on children’s health compared to adults.

Will health be an even greater driver of consumer behaviour in future? Do you think any of these changes will be permanent?

The pandemic has highlighted our reliance on an efficient and sustainable food system, and many businesses have already taken great steps to promote healthy diets as they look to build back better. Our data shows that healthier and more sustainable diets are still very much the priority for over half of consumers and so it is critical that the industry continues to play its part in offering healthier, more sustainable and affordable diets. To help, we have established a new working group including manufacturers, retailers, food service and nutrition experts to identify and test the most effective behaviour change initiatives to support change, and we will be sharing this best practice as it emerges.

Are more people turning to plant-based diets?

Evidence shows that to shift towards healthier and more sustainable diets, consumers should be increasing the proportion of foods coming from plant-based sources, reduce meat and dairy and reduce foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

Our research indicates that COVID-19 has impacted all these areas but most notably it has driven polarising behaviour around meat-eating.

Prior to the pandemic there was a rise of plant-based, flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets. The proportion of people eating meat in the UK has fallen significantly in the last nine months, with a rise in vegetarian and vegan diets from 9% of consumers in November 2019 to 15% in July 2020.

However, in contrast there has been an increase in how frequently those who eat meat are consuming it – with significantly more people eating meat a few times a week or every day.

The increase in meat eating frequency is driven primarily by men, and higher socio-economic groups remain heavier meat eaters, despite also having a higher proportion of non-meat eaters.

Is there greater transparency today about the origin of products?

UK shoppers generally have high confidence in food businesses to deliver authentic products and long-standing third-party schemes, for example the Rainforest Alliance, have helped to support trust in the provenance of food and drink over many years.

Our Technical Leaders Forum, an industry group providing thought leadership on technical issues facing the supply chain, recently led a review into different virtual audit technologies to ensure that food safety and quality processes continued to be world leading during the pandemic. The review focused on four different technologies for virtual audits and we shared the learnings widely so that other companies could benefit.

New technologies such as virtual audits are really driving developments in supply chain transparency. Another exciting area is blockchain, which create cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, as they offer detailed information alongside total security against tampering or fraud. This technology is becoming increasingly accessible. For example, Nestle was an early adopter of blockchain for food provenance. In 2020, Nestle’s Zoegas coffee brand comes with a QR code that shoppers can scan to see details of the original production, the sequence of transactions involved in the supply chain and technical details about processing. The information is secured by IBM’s Food Trust blockchain system.

Another great example is a consortium of farmers in Scotland that developed a system for reassuring shoppers that their milled oats are not contaminated by gluten from other grains. The system was developed by Wallet Services and SAC Consulting, with cash support from the Scottish government. The system not only provides reassurance for shoppers, but also allows farmers to command better prices.

Technology places more information in the hands of shoppers, making them as well-informed as the businesses that they deal with. This, in turn, helps to empower shoppers, giving them the opportunity to give effect to their ethical or dietary ambitions.

How successful was the virtual work experience programme that you launched for school leavers this summer?

With young people set to be among the worst affected by the COVID-19 crisis from a skills and employability perspective, this summer we worked collaboratively with the food and consumer goods industry to pull together a virtual work experience programme that not only set out to help school leavers who are unsure of their next steps, but also to bring to life the breadth of careers available in FMCG.

Some 80 school leavers participated in the week-long programme, taking part in interactive live workshops and hands-on projects. Participants were able to select individual masterclasses in areas that interested them, including marketing and sales, engineering, IT and digital.

Were there any challenges resulting from the experience being virtual, rather than in person?

Since the advent of COVID-19 we’re all used to hosting and participating in all sorts of activities online and the virtual work experience programme leant itself very well to this forum.

The virtual delivery allowed us to bring together our industry through pre-recorded messages from senior leaders while some participated in the live workshops. This combination meant we had support from 23 industry professionals from 13 companies, which was fantastic as participants really got a good feel for how our industry works.

Alongside the workshops, the participants were encouraged to work on a project, choosing from three that incorporated industry challenges on health, sustainability, and technology. The projects proved popular as it provided the participants the opportunity to apply learnings from the workshops, they could access IGD’s latest research in these areas and explore their strengths and weaknesses.

It can be difficult talking to an audience you can’t see but the structured, activity-based workshops throughout the week, ensured participants developed their skills and could ask the industry professionals their burning questions. Finally, the virtual delivery enabled us to support young people across the UK, which really reflects the nature of jobs in our industry as young people can access careers in FMCG wherever they may live!

Which FMCG companies got involved in the virtual work experience?

We had incredible support from the food and consumer goods industry for this project. As the UK’s largest private sector employer, the industry recognises its responsibility to help young people and support the community in these challenging times – we also have a great story to tell them about the exciting range of skilled careers available in FMCG.

The companies involved were Aldi, Asda, Coca-Cola European Partners, Danone, KP Snacks, LOOP Europe, Mondelez, Morrisons, P&G, Premier Foods, RSSL (Mondelez), Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Tulip.

What kind of feedback did you receive from the FMCG companies and from the young people who participated in the programme?

Some 97% of participants fed back that the programme helped them to develop their understanding of the skills used in the world of work. There was also some great anecdotal feedback too, with many citing the interactive sessions, ability to learn soft skills and explore their strengths as really valuable.

Our engineering and sustainability project winner, Shira Wulwick, is completing A Levels in maths and science and had not previously considered a career in FMCG. Shira commented that: “I had a brilliant experience on the virtual work experience programme. I really felt that all the webinars and projects briefs were made with so much love and effort. The trophy is beautiful – such a great surprise!”

We also had some fantastic feedback from our industry volunteers, Liz Mason, HR Director at Danone, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed being connected to this group of young people and helping them orientate around what the world of work might be like. It was great to bring the real working world to life, especially in FMCG and creating a sense of excitement and piquing their interest in our sector.”

We were so delighted with the first virtual work experience programme that we’ll be repeating it again – with the next session kicking off on the 09 November.

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