Fresh fruit and vegetables may be flying off the shelves at Lidl, but consumers can rest assured there are no flights involved when the produce is delivered to the stores in Sweden.
The supermarket chain has announced that it has stopped sending in fruit and vegetables on aeroplanes, in a bid to reduce emissions and cut food waste.
Lidl Sweden has focused its attention on reducing dependence of air travel to supply fresh produce and last year, only one food item – honey mangoes – was imported to the Swedish stores by air.
The ambitious move makes Lidl the first nationwide chain to achieve this, after research was conducted to analyse the overall sustainability impact of transporting goods by air.
Food waste was a major contributor to the decision. It is common for Swedish food chains to use air transport to supply a variety of fresh produce including lemons, green beans, papaya, fresh berries and asparagus but Lidl has decided will all now travel more sustainably by train and boat. Whether Lidl has set a precedent for other food chains to follow suit remains to be seen.
The proportion of food waste from produce transported by air is considerably higher than food that has been shipped by boat or train, and with the rising cost of living it is vital that food is preserved in its best possible condition.
Importing fresh fruit and vegetables to Sweden creates a significant climate impact and products that are flown in often have a short shelf life in the stores, which leads to a large proportion of food waste for these products.
Since 2017, Lidl Sweden has been the only nationwide food chain that climate compensates for its Swedish business operations. The company aims to separate its food waste by 2025 as every year, Lidl reports its food waste in tonnes so that it is easy and transparent to follow how the work is developing.
The company has devised an advertising campaign that depicts a kiwi fruit alongside several birds that stopped flying, including the penguin, ostrich and emu.
Caroline Kjerstadius, Sustainability manager at Lidl Sweden, said: “As we continue our work to reduce both the climate footprint and food waste, it was a natural step to question the air transport of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We know that customers appreciate having access to fresh products all year round. Still, we will be able to continue to offer our customers a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables even if we do not use air transport.”
Ricardo Pengel, Principal Consultant Sustainable Business and Consumer Goods Practice Lead at Acre EU, said: “One of the key steps that retailers need to take in order to become more sustainable is to evaluate the supply chain and plan better for transportation of goods.
“It is very encouraging to see that organisations like Lidl Sweden are taking this a step further by putting a ban on air freight for fruits and vegetables. Hopefully, this is something that can be rolled out to other product groups and geographic regions as well within Lidl and ideally other retailers will follow.”
Ricardo Pengel is a Principal Consultant within Acre Benelux's Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability team.
Ricardo has recruited across various sectors for national, regional and international organisations. Prior to joining Acre, Ricardo worked for a renowned global executive search firm where he was part of the firm’s Procurement, Supply Chain & Operations Centre of Excellence and was responsible for retained searches across the Benelux region. Prior to this, he worked for a reputable global recruitment firm for five years where he was part of the firm’s Procurement & Supply Chain practice where he led a team focusing on senior management searches.
His earlier career was in the hospitality industry where he was working as a Corporate Event Manager for a global hotel chain and was responsible for contracting and organising corporate events for global organisations. Ricardo holds a Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Management from Hotelschool The Hague in The Netherlands. He is fluent in English, Dutch and Italian.