Under a new funding accelerator programme launched today in conjunction with WWF, Tesco will match its suppliers with start-ups and innovators targeted at reducing the environmental impact of its food supply chain.
The ‘Innovation Connections’ initiative, according to the supermarket giant, will assist identify suppliers well-positioned to enable the scale-up of innovative green ideas and technologies, as well as encourage start-ups in pitching their sustainable innovations directly to enterprises in the food supply chain.
Successful bidders will then collaborate with Tesco’s supplier partners to trial and grow their inventions, with each obtaining up to £150,000 in funding from the retailer, according to the store.
Tesco and WWF have already narrowed down 70 submissions to eight finalists through the accelerator programme, which includes innovations to enhance biodiversity, evaluate nutrient efficiency on dairy farms, produce low carbon fertilisers, and scale up circular fish feed, among other things. Winners will be notified later this week.
Tesco Group CEO Ken Murphy stated that swift innovation is required to create a more economical, sustainable, secure, and nutritious food supply chain in the United Kingdom.
He did, however, warn that “defunct” provisions were impeding the scale-up of critical innovations, such as the use of insect protein in animal feed and low carbon fertilisers, and urged the government to create incentives for firms and consumers alike to help drive the adoption of food innovations.
“The whole food sector must innovate quickly to produce affordable, healthy, and sustainable food for everybody,” he added. “However, government assistance is also required to assist the food business in scaling proven advances. The impending Food Strategy White Paper is an excellent chance to change our food system and improve food production. We believe that the document will lay out a procedure for updating outmoded restrictions that are impeding the scale-up of much-needed technologies.”
The programme is part of Tesco’s long-term collaboration with WWF to reduce the environmental impact of the average shopping basket at the retailer’s stores by half.
Food production and consumption contribute to more than a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, but WWF CEO Tanya Steele emphasised that “it doesn’t have to be this way.”
“It is conceivable for farms to produce enough healthy food to maintain farmers’ livelihoods while also conserving and repairing the natural resources on which they rely,” she says.
The announcement comes just days after WWF launched a partnership with catering and facilities management giant Sodexo in the United Kingdom to promote ecologically friendly food choices in schools through the launch of a statewide plant-based menu and climate awareness campaign.
Dubbed Plant+ is a new 100% plant-based project that offers vegan burgers, chickpea and spinach curries, lentil tacos, plant-based sausage rolls, and vegan doughnuts.
According to Sodexo, the plant-based menu will be introduced in 16 UK schools, together with promotional and instructional materials on the impact of dietary choices on the environment, in order to encourage behavioural changes among students, staff, and parents.
Sodexo’s culinary innovation and sustainability director for schools and universities, David Mulcahy, explained that the Plant+ programme was created “to promote awareness of the little adjustments that can be done in their regular lives that would have a beneficial influence on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.”
“We are encouraging the entire school community to engage, talk, and take action through a variety of programmes and projects that go beyond offering wonderful school meals,” he stated. “We are excited to work with our student and teacher ambassadors to spread the word that we can make a difference one meal at a time.”
In other industry news, frozen foods behemoth Nomad Foods has urged the global food industry and European authorities to do more extensive, end-to-end life cycle assessment (LCA) studies to analyse the climate and environmental consequences of the sector’s production chain.
The company, which owns brands such as Birds Eye, Findus, and Iglo, stated that it was critical for food firms to truly comprehend their products’ entire emissions and environmental impact in order to deliver timely and concise information to suppliers and customers.
However, it said that current carbon labelling and LCA analyses were frequently insufficient because they seldom took into account data on food waste and processing, which it claimed were critical components of addressing Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in the food supply chain.
According to a study funded by Nomad Foods, retail and consumer food loss and waste create an estimated 160 million tonnes of CO2 in the EU, including 17.25 million tonnes of CO2 in the UK.
“We feel it is critical that we discover methods to present customers with data that enables them to make educated decisions and generates trust that sustainability claims are strong and evidence-based,” said Nomad Foods CEO Stéfan Descheemaeker. “To that end, we advise the food sector, retailers, and regulators to embrace a broader scope for LCAs as a norm, taking into consideration the whole product life cycle.”
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