Asda

Asda has become the first food retailer in the country to measure how much customers can save by cutting back on food waste, thanks to a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Leeds.

The idea behind the KTP was for the University, using Asda’s customer insight data, to apply its research to identify, investigate and implement ways of helping customers to reduce their food waste. This was one of the first times that a major retailer had tried to deliver large-scale sustainability changes, with the two year project seen as a way for Asda to position themselves as true innovators in this area. 

The campaign focused on providing customers with advice on everything from food storage and labelling, to creative recipes for leftovers. Meanwhile, in-store events encouraged customers to make changes in their own homes. In fact two million customers have said they will make changes to how they deal with food waste in their own homes, leading to an average saving of £57 per customer, as well as a reduction in waste.

A key aspect of a KTP is that an associate is employed by the University to work in the firm and help deliver the desired outcomes of the KTP. As part of the collaboration with Asda, Laura Babbs was given the task of driving forward the sustainability changes in the retailer. As a result of the success of her work, Laura eventually became a permanent member of the team at Asda, with a new associate, Cheryl Robinson, employed to carry on the KTP to completion and now taking up a role at the retailer herself. This has meant that sustainability has now been truly embedded within the working practices of the retailer, as Laura explains:

“The KTP allowed us to deliver a truly ground breaking research project that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. The insight from the associates and academic partners delivered real savings for our customers and will shape our strategy for years to come.” 

While the firm has committed to continue their work to tackle food waste, as the firm’s Chief Customer Officer, Andy Murray, explains: 

“As a major food retailer, we have a responsibility and the ability to bring about large scale change when it comes to tackling food waste. By partnering with the University of Leeds, the team has been able to take our insight and really explore this area, meaning that we now have a greater understanding of customer attitude and behaviour, helping shape the way we communicate with our customers and ultimately the way we do business.

However, our commitment to food waste doesn’t end here. While helping our customers live more sustainably is a step in the right direction, we understand the importance of addressing this issue throughout our entire supply chain. This is just one of many initiatives we are undertaking as we aim to tackle the issue in collaboration with everyone from our customers and suppliers, to our colleagues in-store.”

The KTP is now complete and has been rated “outstanding” by independent assessors. However, the knowledge gained from the project is still very much in evidence, and is being extensively used by Asda. While the University also benefited from the project as Professor, William Young, explains:

“Working with a large-scale retailer like Asda, and its millions of customers, has been an invaluable experience. Not only have we come away with real, measurable insights from shoppers, but we have also seen a direct correlation between our recommended actions and tangible behavioural change. While our formal partnership has come to a close, the legacy of this project will certainly live on in the benefits passed to customers and of course the environment.”

This £180,000 project was co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. For further information visit: www.innovateuk.gov.uk

Find out if a Knowledge Transfer Partnership could help your business by contacting the KTP team at the University of Leeds at ktp@leeds.ac.uk.

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