Retailer price promotions reduce food wastage by increase waste awareness

By our News Team | 2023

Dutch study finds that supermarkets can help prevent food wastage through the design of clever promotional campaigns. 

Contrary to what is often assumed, retailer price promotions such as ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ or other product-quantity discounts in supermarkets do not cause more food to go to waste. 

Rather, such offers appear to increase consumer awareness of the risk of wasting food, which in turn spurs them on to prevent food waste. Supermarkets could, therefore, encourage such awareness-driven behaviour by designing smart campaigns that help prevent waste.

Pricing Strategy

Photo by Greta Hoffman from Pexels

This is one of the main findings of a recent follow-up study on the effect of retailer price promotions in supermarkets on food waste. The first study showed that retailer price promotions reduce waste; the follow-up study shows why.

The research was carried out by three academic institutions in the Netherlands: Tilburg University, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Wageningen University. 

“What we see is that, while price promotions often make consumers buy more than they would normally do, they then also try to avoid wasting the surplus they bought,” says lead researcher, Arjen van Lin, of the Marketing Department of the Tilburg School of Economics and Management.

Consider other types of special offers

To reduce food waste even further, one of our recommendations to supermarkets is to consider using other types of ‘one + one free’ offers that will heighten awareness even more. For example, ‘one now +one free later’ or ‘one to go + one to freeze’.”

Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study was conducted in collaboration with GfK, a leading market research agency in the Netherlands.

Over nine weeks, scanner panel information was collected on households shopping at Albert Heijn (better known as AH), the largest supermarket chain in the country.

One to two weeks after having bought specific products (certain vegetables, fruits, and bread products) at the regular price or at the promotional price, customers would be asked to participate in a questionnaire about what they did with these products.

Analysing the date, the researchers found that when consumers buy more than they would normally do, they are more concerned about the risk of wasting food. This concern drives more conscious behaviour, encouraging consumers to increase their efforts to prevent food wastage, for example by freezing some of the food they buy.

You can read more about the study, entitled, ‘Does Cash Really Mean Trash? An Empirical Investigation into the Effect of Retailer Price Promotions on Household Food Waste’ here.