KNOWLEDGE MAP Back to overview

An overview of insights on the (un)sustainability of the international food system.

Food & Sustainability

…as supermarket?

As the direct point of sale for consumers, supermarkets have the opportunity to introduce sustainability in their offering. They themselves can reduce food waste, cooperate with other actors to innovate sustainably, trace product origins and encourage sustainable consumer behaviour.

The supermarket as point of sale

We buy most of our food in the supermarket, which is why this party can influence the demand for sustainable products. At the same time, the supermarket is also dependent on the wishes of the consumer. Because big supermarket chains have gained a greater share in the retail market, they have growing leverage to stimulate sustainability across the food chain, by setting sustainable purchasing conditions (standards that suppliers must meet to be allowed to sell to them).

PBL (2013), p. 103-104.

Sustainability themes

A major objective for supermarkets today is realising a sustainable meat, dairy and fish assortment through the use of labelling or higher purchasing standards. Within the Alliance for Food Sustainability for example, supermarkets have committed themselves to an annual revenue growth of the intermediate segment (among others, meat with at least one Better Life star and fish with an MSC certificate) of 15%. The supermarket can also reduce food waste, partly by matching supply and demand more closely and sending products that are nearing their expiry date to food banks or reworking plants. Furthermore, it is important to also trace the food chain across national boundaries, in order to assess sustainability indicators there.

CBL (2010), p. 3-10.

See also: Milieu Centraal Certificate Monitor.

Stimulate sustainable choices

Although the supermarket depends on the consumer for making a sale, considerable influence may be exercised on the shopping process. Bargains have a major impact on choices, but also the layout of the store is important: the greater the share of sustainable and healthy products in the range, the more they are purchased. Products located in the middle of the shelf or at eye level sell better. Positioning sustainable products right next to the less sustainable option is also effective, and so is making explicit how well sustainable product sales are going.

Schuttelaar & Partners & WUR (2012), p. 5-11.

Van Kleef, E., Otten, K., & van Trijp, H. C. (2012), p. 2.

Duurzame supermarktinitiatieven CBL.

Case study: Instock

Instock is a restaurant in Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht that gets 80 to 100% of its products from local Albert Heijns, where it might otherwise have been wasted. All kinds of potatoes, vegetables, fruits and breads that have remaining shelf lives that are too short to be sold, but still comply with safety requirements, can still be eaten. Other destinations for almost expired food include food banks. In this way, supermarkets can get the most value out of food that is likely to be lost otherwise.

Website Instock