Dave Bester

Grocery recovery taking off in SA

Worldwide around 30% of food ends up in landfill sites. “It is no different in SA,” says Dave Bester (left) MD of Groceries Unlimited, a firm aiming to reduce needless wastage.

Based in Cape Town, the company brings a new concept to SA food retailing: grocery recovery — buying and retailing groceries that would otherwise be discarded.

“Last year we took a view that grocery recovery has huge potential if it is done right,” says Bester, a former advertising executive specialising in food and liquor brands.

For Bester and his team, the critical step is to convince food producers and retailers Groceries Unlimited can do it right. “We go to great lengths to protect their brands.”

Where producers do not want their brands displayed, steps can be taken, says Bester. They include blanking out a brand, selling it in its primary, unmarked packaging or repacking items.

What can’t be done by law is to alter sell-by dates, which are set conservatively by producers and retailers. But it is perfectly legal to sell products past sell-by dates.

“Sell-by dates are by far the biggest reason food is discarded,” says Bester. “They are not understood by consumers.”

The Smithsonian Institution agrees, noting in a recent article: “It’s probably safe to say that you can ignore whatever date is printed on your food.”

The group has so far opened three Foodies stores in Cape Town industrial areas. Selling goods at 50% or more below supermarket prices, they represent a lifeline for many customers. More stores are in the pipeline.

“With enough stock we could open stores in virtually every town in SA,” says Bester. “Most of our customers are battling. About 60% are pensioners. There are also a lot of young families.”

Slowly but surely Groceries Unlimited is winning over food producers, including sector heavyweight Pioneer Foods. But Pioneer is playing it safe, selling to Groceries Unlimited products that are still three months from expiry, says Felix Lombard of Pioneer.

While Groceries Unlimited now has about 10 producers on board, retailers have been slow to follow suit. So far only Shoprite has, but its participation is limited to surplus stock that had been destined for its African stores.

Source: Financial Mail

Related reading:

SA shoppers ignore “best by” in quest for best buy