Food waste management: A review of retailers’ business practices and their implications for sustainable value

Iona Yuelu Huang*, Louise Manning, Katy L. James, Vasilis Grigoriadis, Anthony Millington, Victoria Wood, Shane Ward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Food waste is a global challenge that has significant environmental, social and economic implications. Food retailers are in a powerful position to influence food waste reduction by producers, manufacturers and consumers. There is a paucity of worldwide understanding regarding the scope and scale of operations by retailers in minimising/managing food waste. The aim of this research was to develop a systematic understanding of how food retailers deal with food waste both internally and externally, within a five-tier ‘food waste hierarchy’ framework. This study is based on a qualitative synthesis of 460 articles systematically gathered from nine bibliographic databases and eight grey literature sources and published in English between 1998 and 2019. The review suggests a growing research/reporting interest in retail food waste management. The review identified 199 named and unnamed retailers from 27 countries that have reported some form of the 35 types of food waste management activities. There is evidence of retailers following the food waste hierarchy in reporting their practices with more focus on reducing food waste and redistribution of surplus food for human consumption, and less on recycling and energy recovery by incineration. The wide range of practices adopted by food retailers to mitigate food waste were mapped in a sustainable value framework which showed a typology of five approaches: repositioning, reallocating, reacting, re-engineering and relating. This demonstrates that economic, social and environmental benefits can be realised by retailers’ food waste management, but not in a homogeneous way. Further empirical work should be undertaken to see how different retail business models aligns with the different approaches in the sustainable value framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125484
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date10 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 690142 , titled AGROCYCLE.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Food waste hierarchy
  • Food waste prevention
  • Retail sector
  • Surplus food redistribution
  • Sustainable value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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