The causes of food waste in the supplier–retailer interface: Evidences from the UK and Spain

Mena, Carlos; Adenso-Diaz, B. and Yurt, Oznur (2011). The causes of food waste in the supplier–retailer interface: Evidences from the UK and Spain. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 55(6) pp. 648–658.



Food and drink waste is a significant problem for economic, environmental and food security reasons. Government efforts have focused on diverting waste away from landfill through regulation, taxation and public awareness. However, efforts to understand why waste occurs have been limited, particularly in the interface between retailers and suppliers. This research aims to address this problem by identifying the main root causes of waste in the supplier–retailer interface. The research is exploratory in nature as there is a paucity of studies focusing on food waste across the supply chain. Data were collected through 43 interviews with managers in food manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing in two countries: the UK (24) and Spain (19). Data from the interviews and supplementary documentation were analyzed using causal maps. This approach helped to identify the main root causes of waste which were categorized into three groups: (1) mega-trends in the marketplace, (2) natural causes related to the products and processes, and (3) management root causes on which practitioners have a direct impact. The paper discusses the root causes of food waste and good practices identified from the interviews. Differences between the UK and Spain are discussed, presenting potential learning opportunities for practitioners in these countries and highlighting opportunities for further research.

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