Food Waste

Invitation to Participate in New ECR Research on Food Surplus

Food Waste

Food Waste

Dr Arzum Akkas
Written by Dr Arzum Akkas

Assistant Professor, Operations and Technology Management Boston University – Questrom School of Business

About the author

New ECR Research: Food Surplus Management


Despite significant advancements in capabilities to forecast demand, to dynamically manage assortment, to reduce case sizes, and innovations to extend the shelf life through packaging, plus other food waste preventative measures, retail store managers are still faced with considerable surplus quantities of fresh food in bakery, produce, and protein that will be on track to pass their expiry date and be surplus to requirement.

This study will seek not to understand the root causes of the food surplus, but instead focus on the strategies retailers deploy to identify, manage and then exit surplus food from their business / stores.

To learn more, view this 2 minute video to hear from Professor Arzum Akkas, Boston University about the research, and how you and your business can participate.

Research Objectives

There are three research objectives:

  1. Understand current retail store practices for the management and exit of food waste, focusing on bakery, fruits & vegetables, and protein.
  2. Identify the variations in retailer approaches and seek to explore what explains those differences in practices
  3. Explore the role technology currently plays, for example, apps such as FlashFood or AI for dynamic pricing, and identify possible unmet needs and gaps not met by the markets to date


To gather the required data, there will be three phases of the research:

  • Store Visits – The academic team will follow the physical and informational flow of fresh items that are soon to expire, from the moment the imminent surplus is identified through to their exit from the store [to a charity, to animal feed, to landfill, etc].
  • Online Interviews – 45 minute online interviews will be conducted with those in home office positions and responsible for the food waste exit strategy. See discussion guide
  • Quantitative Study – To explore and quantify the variation in approaches, an online survey will be sent to grocery retailers.


All store visits, online interviews, and the online survey will be undertaken on the basis that no individual named retailer or identifiable data will ever be shared in any communications about the study or be published and named in the final report unless there have been specific approvals granted to the researcher by the individual retailer.


A report of the research findings will be produced, and a draft report shared with the participating retailers prior to the final report being published.


The field work, interviews, and survey elements of the research need to be squeezed into a tight timeline, starting in early February and completed by the end of May (12 weeks). The goal is to share the draft report with the participating retailers in June.

Discussion guide

The zoom interview will aim to help the researchers to understand the variation across retailers and product categories about food surplus exit methods (e.g., markdown, free to online grocery customers, donation to charities, store colleague donation, animal feed, anaerobic digestion, composting, re-purposing, etc.).

 The questions for the online interviews will include the following:  

  • Can you talk us through the process that identifies aged, expired, or damaged items in the store?
  • Suppose I am a packaged uncooked chicken fillets that is expiring tomorrow. How do the store employees find out about this? What happens to me after someone finds out that I will expire tomorrow?
  • How do your answers change if I was a croissant that no longer is fresh? How do you define freshness?
  • How do your answers change if I was a cucumber that no longer looks fresh? How do you define freshness?
  • How often is date checking conducted? Do you get any notifications from any system on what to check or is the instruction to check all products?
  • Do you discount items near their last day of expiration? Or, do you take them off sales? If yes, how many days before expiration do you take them off?
  • If you discount the items, how many days before the expiry date do you apply any discounts? How do you decide the discount % to apply? How does the discount get applied at the checkout?

Call to Action

The academic team plan on engaging in store visits and online interviews thirty plus grocery retailers from around the world, if you can be part of this research please either drop ECR an email at OR contact Arzum directly at

Thank you for your support.

Mar 4, 2022


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