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The End of Buy One, Get One Free in the U.K.?

In Effort to Reduce Food Waste, Pressure on Supermarkets to Ban Deal

By Published on . 8

LONDON (AdAge.com) -- One of the marketing business' venerable promotions may soon be liquidated in the United Kingdom.

Buy one, get one free deals -- or BOGOFs -- are facing potential banishment from U.K. supermarkets as part of a government plan to get grocery chains to work to reduce Britain's mountain of food waste.

Sainsbury's
Photo: J Sainsbury

The news comes even as the European Court of Justice ruled in May that individual member states do not have the power to ban BOGOF promotions. (The ban was introduced by the Finnish government and the court battle was waged by advertisers challenging the practice in Belgium.)

Instead, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is pressuring stores to agree to tough targets on food waste. Supermarket chiefs are being asked to offer half-price deals on perishable food instead of BOGOF deals, which are frequently applied to food that is near its sell-by date, and to sell it in a greater range of sizes to suit single people and couples as well as families.

A third of all food is wasted in Britain, according to a new government report on food security and sustainability, with Brits throwing away around 5.1 million potatoes and 220,000 loaves of bread each year. Eliminating food waste would cut carbon emissions equivalent to taking a fifth of Britain's cars off the roads, the report said.

The cost of food waste
The average Briton throws away more than his own weight in food annually, with food waste costing each household nearly $700 a year, according to the government's waste watchdog, the Waste & Resources Action Programme, known as "Wrap."

DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency are also preparing new guidelines to reduce confusion about food labeling. Wrap research found that millions of people did not know the difference between "sell by" and "use by" dates, and also failed to realize that they could eat food after the "best before" date had passed.

Speaking at the launch of the government's new food strategy document, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said that a "radical rethink" of the way Britain produces and consumes food is needed. He said, "Last year, the world had a wake-up call with the sudden oil and food price rises, but the full environmental costs and the costs to our health remain significant and hidden."

British Retail Consortium opposes the move. "To get rid of BOGOFs across the board would not be the right policy," it said in a statement. "Retailers know their customers best and BOGOFs work for certain groups of people, such as larger households and groups of families and friends. The food can be frozen and used over an extended period --- BOGOFs don't cause food waste in themselves.

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