How Save-On-Foods surpassed its food waste reduction goals and set a new standard for sustainability in the grocery industry

Many lauded the eight grocery retailers that publicly declared back in January 2019 that they would cut their food waste in half in six years. And they were right to. Food waste is one of the leading causes of global warming, with between 8 and 10% global greenhouse gas emissions created as a direct result of lost and wasted food, of which – in Canada – the retail industry is responsible for 12%.

Food waste is one of the leading causes of global warming, with between 8 and 10% global greenhouse gas emissions created as a direct result of lost and wasted food.

Grocery retailer Save-On-Foods got straight to work and impressively smashed that goal in just six months.  It then set its sights on a goal no other grocery retailer in Canada could even fathom at the time: being zero food waste to landfill by 2022.

To help it on its food waste reduction journey, Save-On-Foods brought in FoodMesh and Loop Resource Program, to help its stores ensure that the food they could no longer sell – either because it was close to expiry or had aesthetic imperfections – was kept out of landfill and diverted to higher-end uses. Unsold food was to be redistributed according to a strict hierarchy: if it was safe for human consumption, it would be shared with hunger-relief organizations to be turned into meals. Food that wasn’t would be shared with hobby farmers to feed their animals. Anything left over would be composted and turned into nutrient-rich soil.

Save-On-Foods' unsold food was to be redistributed according to a strict hierarchy: if it was safe for human consumption, it would be shared with hunger-relief organizations to be turned into meals, like Sources Community Resources Centre, pictured here.

“Save-On-Foods was the first retailer to take a chance with FoodMesh, back when we had just opened our doors as a professional food recovery service provider and the broader industry didn’t even seem to know it had a food waste problem,” says Jessica Regan, FoodMesh Co-Founder and CEO.

For FoodMesh, the partnership began in 2018 at Save-On-Foods’ Garrison location in Chilliwack in British Columbia. FoodMesh matched the store with the local Salvation Army chapter, to collect all of the food the store could no longer sell to redistribute to people in the community who needed it most.

Save-On-Foods was the first retailer to take a chance with FoodMesh, back when we had just opened our doors as a professional food recovery service provider and the broader industry didn’t even seem to know it had a food waste problem

– Jessica Regan

“This pilot was our chance to develop a scalable solution that helped retailers find alternative homes for their unsold food in a manner that feeds more and sends less to landfill,” Jessica adds.

Five years on, and all 187 Save-On-Foods stores have a food recovery program in place and is sharing its unsold food with over 3,000 local hunger-relief organizations and hobby farmers across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon Territory. 

The benefits of Save-On-Foods’ work are being felt across the communities they serve, including by Jolene Friesen, from the Swallowtail Trauma Integration Society: “I work with clients who have experienced complex trauma, but how can they work on their trauma when they’re hungry? Thank you to all of the stores that donate food so generously. It helps go into the bellies of people who are working on their hearts and their spirits.” 

To date, Save-On-Foods’ unsold food has created the equivalent of 48 million meals for some of Canada’s most vulnerable communities, a number that is rising rapidly by the day. 

To date, Save-On-Foods’ unsold food has created the equivalent of 48 million meals for some of Canada’s most vulnerable communities.

But the benefits of Save-On-Foods efforts don’t stop there. By diverting its unsold food away from landfill, Save-On-Foods’ has reduced its C02e emissions by 19%  – the equivalent of removing 2,538 gas-powered cars from the road for one year – even though it has 30 more stores today than it did back when it started measuring its food waste in 2016. 

“FoodMesh couldn’t be prouder of our partnership with Save-On-Foods – not only because of the impact its work is having on our communities and the environment but also because of the ripple effects that its bold leadership in this space is having on the broader grocery retail industry,” says Jessica. 

Bruce Currie, Energy and Sustainability Manager of Save-On-Foods
Food that is no longer suitable for human consumption is shared with local hobby farmers, to feed their animals.

Save-On-Foods has reduced its C02e emissions by 19% even though it has 30 more stores today than it did back when it started measuring its food waste in 2016.

Since June 2022, all Save-On-Foods’ stores have adopted the best practices that will help them achieve the goal of being zero food waste, and an internal audit has revealed that these stores are already 90% there. 

Jessica continues: “As we can see by the rise in climate emergencies around the world, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an urgent matter that requires decisive action across the food industry – both in retail and beyond. We truly believe that Save-On-Foods’ success in surpassing its food waste reduction goals has been a catalyst for positive change in the industry, and as a result, more and more food businesses are coming to the table curious about what they can do to tackle this enormous problem.”

Since June 2022, all Save-On-Foods’ stores have adopted the best practices that will help them achieve the goal of being zero food waste, and an internal audit has revealed that these stores are already 90% there.

Are you interested in minimizing your waste and maximizing your impact? Book a consultation today to discuss how FoodMesh can help you meet your food waste reduction goals.

Written by Megan Czerpak, Head of Communications at FoodMesh

Related stories