To help reduce household food waste, The Kroger Co. plans to standardize “use by” date labeling for its private-brand food products.
Kroger said Wednesday that, with the move, its Our Brands foods will carry simpler, easier-to-understand quality and safety information, leading to fewer items being thrown in the trash by consumers uncertain if they’re fresh or safe to eat.
The new labels will apply to multiple product categories, including dairy, deli, bakery, and fresh and frozen grocery. Cincinnati-based Kroger said it began the date label transition earlier this year and expects to finish rolling out the updated labeling in 2020.
"Kroger recognizes food waste often takes place in our customers' kitchens simply because product date labels can be confusing, resulting in safe-to-eat food regularly being tossed out," Howard Popoola, vice president of corporate food technology and regulatory compliance, said in a statement. "As Kroger works to reduce food waste throughout our business and our communities, we are standardizing and simplifying Our Brands products' date labels, providing clearer guidance to our customers."
Going forward, Our Brands food products will bear either a “use by” or “best if used by” date labels, according to Kroger.
The company said “use by” indicates food safety and specifies the date when a product is no longer safe to eat. Meanwhile, “best if used by” signifies food quality by providing a date for an item’s guaranteed freshness, but not its safety.
Kroger noted that the effort is part of its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social initiative to create communities free of hunger and food waste by 2025.
“By implementing a standard and simplified new date labeling approach, Kroger and our customers can play an instrumental role in preventing tons of food waste from arriving at landfills, resulting in a healthier, stronger planet and communities free of hunger and waste," stated Jessica Adelman, group vice president of corporate affairs and chief social impact officer.
According to ReFED research, an estimated 20% of avoidable food waste stems from consumer confusion about date label information. At the same time, Kroger reported, one in nine Americans struggles with hunger daily 40% of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten, in part from household food waste.
"Standardized date labeling is one of the most cost-effective solutions to reduce food waste and provide more resources to food banks across the country," commented Chris Cochran, executive director for ReFED. "We applaud Kroger's continued leadership on food waste reduction through its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste plan, and ReFED is proud to partner with America's largest grocer to help the retailer achieve its bold, commendable goal by 2025."
Overall, Kroger operates 2,759 food and drug stores under such banners as Kroger, Ralphs, Dillons, Smith’s, King Soopers, Fry’s, QFC, City Market, Owen’s, Jay C, Pay Less, Baker’s, Gerbes, Harris Teeter, Pick ‘n Save, Copps, Metro Market, Mariano’s, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less and Foods Co.