Hamming it up? Supermarket label changes colour to help cure food waste
A major UK supermarket is launching a new “smart” label on packets of its own-brand ham in a bid to reduce waste by telling consumers how fresh it is.
Ham is Sainsbury’s top-selling cooked meat product, but many buyers find it difficult to remember how long it has been open. Figures from Wrap, the government’s waste advisory body, reveal that British households throw away 1.9 million slices of ham a day – equivalent to 32,500kg – at a cost of more than £170m a year.
The new label changes colour from yellow to purple the longer the pack has been open. Sainsbury’s says it hopes this will reduce the amount of perfectly good ham being thrown away.
Because an open pack of ham has its longest fridge life when kept below 5C, the new label is temperature-sensitive, with the colour change slower in cooler fridges.
Jane Skelton, head of packaging at Sainsbury’s, said: “We’ve all been there; when we’ve found a pack of ham loitering on the bottom shelf of the fridge and can’t remember how long it’s been opened for.
“We wanted to find a way to reduce waste of this family favourite while helping customers save money.”
The move is part of the supermarket’s £10m “waste less, save more” initiative – a five-year investment aiming to help British communities cut the amount of food they throw away. The findings from a year-long trial in Swadlincote, a market town in South Derbyshire, are being used to create a blueprint for communities across the country. Official statistics show that the average British family throws away £700 of food each year.
The new label is being used for the first time on Sainsbury’s own-brand seven-slice packs of cooked ham in all 601 stores. If successful it could be extended to other foods.
The label is among many new technological initiatives – including mobile apps, scales that calculate the financial cost of food waste, and even smart fridges and cameras – which it is hoped will transform the way consumers shop and control their domestic food waste.
These include a tactile bump that tells shoppers when perishable food has gone off, which is currently undergoing a supermarket trial. Its creator, Solveiga Pakštaitė, an industrial design and technology graduate of Brunel University, won the UK round of the prestigious James Dyson award for the invention and has since attracted further funding to make her invention a commercial reality.