Five methods that grocery stores use to prevent food waste – the popularity of red-flagged products is still growing

Grocery stores combat food waste and invest in its prevention in many ways. Customers of K-food stores can now contribute to reducing food waste by purchasing products made with food that would otherwise have been wasted, such as fruit and vegetable boxes and bread bags. At the same time, the popularity of red-flagged products continues to grow, and a variety of products made with potential waste food can now be found on store shelves. Biogas from inedible waste food is used in processes such as the production of Pirkka Amppari ice cream.

Halving food loss by 2030 is one of the key sustainability targets of the K Group’s grocery trade division. Thanks to systematic food loss reduction measures, the K Group has been able to reduce food loss by 16 % this year compared to the same period last year.
Here are five methods that K-food stores use to prevent food waste and put it to good use.

1. Prevention above all

Even though there are now ways to utilise products that might go to waste, the most significant work by grocery stores to reduce food waste is carried out through preventive measures.

“The stores do a lot of work that is not directly visible to customers. Food waste prevention is carried out through measures such as the precise planning of product ranges and orders, as well as efficient logistics. Precise data analyses by advanced forecast and order systems make this work easier,” says Timo Jäske, Sustainability Director at Kesko’s grocery division.

2. Red-flagging – discounts on products near their sell-by date

Finns are very used to purchasing red-flagged products – products that are sold at a discount when they are near their sell-by date – as a method of contributing to food waste prevention while also saving money on their grocery shopping. According to K Group’s survey data, purchasing red-flagged products is currently more popular than before. According to a survey* conducted in August, 75% of the respondents say they buy discounted products that have reached their sell-by date. According to the regularly conducted survey**, interest in red-flagged products has grown steadily this year – in August 2022, the figure was 69%.

3. New fruit and vegetable boxes and bread bags highly visible in stores

The highest risk of food waste tends to be in products with short sell-by windows, such as bread. This year, more K-food stores have started selling affordable containers of food waste products, such as fruit and vegetable boxes and bags with bread and bakery counter products.

K-Supermarket Tripla in Helsinki showcases its food waste boxes and bags very visibly.

“Products that are sensitive or have short sell-by windows are very prone to producing food waste. We’ve been selling the fruit and vegetable boxes with food waste products since the start of summer, and after the positive response they had, we also started selling bread bags. Both of them have been very well received, and our customers have appreciated this new policy. Now that the boxes for fruit and vegetables and bags for bread has been made highly visible in our store, customers have quickly discovered them,” says Petri Miettinen, retailer at K-Supermarket Tripla.

4. From food waste to food gain – creative ideas for food waste products

Edible products that are not fit for sale are used to develop new food waste products.

“Bananas are prone to producing food waste, because as soon as they develop their first brown spots, they no longer sell. We’ve solved the problem by using those bananas as ingredients for our own kitchen’s smoothies. Thanks to this, we have no more food waste from bananas. Food waste products may sound simple, but developing them can also sometimes be challenging. For example, we still haven’t found a good solution for producing fresh juice from fruit about to become food waste,” says Miettinen.

Surplus products are also used in large quantities on an industrial scale. For example, the Hyvis ready-to-eat soup products available at K-food stores are made using surplus tomatoes and bell peppers from Kesko’s central warehouse. The soup products are made in cooperation with Juustoportti’s Kasvisgalleria. Their ingredients include products such as those bruised during transport, rendering them unfit for sale due to cosmetic damage, but otherwise just as delicious.

5. Biogas from K-food stores’ food waste used in the production of Pirkka products

Despite preventive measures, some amount of inedible food waste is inevitably produced. K Group puts this food waste to good use by producing biogas in cooperation with Gasum.

“Biogas production is a way to smartly harness inedible food waste to produce energy. The biowaste from more than 600 K-food stores is already utilised in the production of biogas, which is then used in the production of Pirkka products like the beloved Pirkka Amppari ice cream and ice pop products. The correct sorting of biowaste in the stores is an important part of this cooperation, and the store personnel deserve our appreciation for that work,” says Jäske.

In addition to the K-food stores, the biogas is also produced from the biowaste of Kespro’s wholesale outlets and central warehouse. In 2022, a total of 6,024 tonnes of biowaste was utilised in the production of biogas, producing 4,492 MWh of energy.


*A K Barometri survey conducted at K Group’s customer community K-Kylä on 21–24 August 2023 for Finns aged 25–74 with 756 respondents. The data was weighted to match the population distribution in terms of age and gender.

** Ten K Barometri surveys conducted at K Group’s customer community K-Kylä between August 2022 and July 2023 for Finns aged 25–74. The number of respondents varied between 717 and 1,041 for each survey. The survey data was weighted to match the population distribution in terms of age and gender.

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