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Institute of

MA Market Analysis


Efficient reduction of food waste in wholesale and retail trade

Shopping Trolley in Supermarket
© khwaneigq -
Shopping Trolley in Supermarket

Dialogue Forum on Wholesale and Retail Trade

Food waste and redistribution in food retail has been reduced from 1.76% (in 2019) to 1.54% (in 2020), which corresponds to about 246 thousand tonnes in 2020 in terms of turnover. We are supporting retailers and wholesalers to halve food waste by 2030.


Background and Objective

According to the Federal Government's National Strategy for Food Waste Reduction, total food waste is to be halved by 2030. In order to achieve this goal, all actors in the supply chain and consumers are called upon.

With the 2019 existing data basis in the wholesale and retail sector, the amounts of waste could not be quantified reliably, which made it difficult to set reduction targets. The aim of this project was therefore to quantify and analyse food waste in the wholesale and retail sector in order to map trends from 2015 onwards. Based on this, concrete measures were developed to reduce food waste.


In order to promote the transfer of knowledge between science and the companys, project results are communicated within the framework of the Dialogue Forum for the wholesale and retail sector. This Forum is closely linked with the other sector-specific Dialogue Forums and the National Dialogue Forum. In addition, monitoring and accounting options will be developed in order to create benchmarks and thus to identify the progress of companies. Voluntary agreements will be made between the BMEL and the retail and wholesale companies as well as associations in order to achieve the goals formulated in the National Strategy for Food Waste Reduction.

Data and Methods

Initially, positive examples from Germany and neighbouring countries, documentation of research projects, expert interviews and the specialist literature served as a basis for information. In addition, actors from the wholesale and retail sector were involved who could provide a new database.

The calculations in 2019 are based on voluntarily provided data on sales losses (markdowns) from 13 food retail and cash and carry companies represented by about 13,000 sales points. The participating companies cover a market share of the total food retail sector in Germany of about 35 %. The data basis for retail 2020 are the markdowns of 16 companies. The companies are represented by more than 16,000 sales outlets, have a food turnover of about 97 billion euros and a market share in organised food retail of about 88 %. For wholesale, data sets from a total of six companies are available for 2020 and from five companies for 2019. A market share cannot be calculated here, as no turnover data is currently available for the entire wholesale.


Our analyses of the entire sector are not only aimed at gaining scientific knowledge and providing sound, science-based policy advice, they are also intended to raise society's awareness of the issue.

Although a direct comparison of the two years is only possible to a limited extent due to the different number of companies depicted, it was possible to show that the markdown rates of the members of the Dialogue Forum from the food retail trade as well as Cash and Carry companies have reduced from 1.76 % (in 2019) to 1.54 % (in 2020) with regard to the turnover of the companies, which corresponds to around 246 thousand tonnes of food waste as well as food redistributed in 2020. Overall, markdown rates are below 3 % for a large proportion of companies. These figures indicate that food waste is already being reduced in the companies' own internal area of responsibility by implementing a wide range of optimisation measures.

The participating companies in the food wholesale sector were able to reduce the markdown rates in individual product groups. More than half of the companies have markdown rates of less than 1 % in the various product groups. However, average markdown rates across all product groups increased from 0.23 % (2019) to 0.35 % (2020). The increase is mainly due to a few outliers in the product groups "fruit and vegetables", "bread and bakery products" and "meat, fish and poultry" with markdown rates greater than 5 %.

A differentiation of food waste from food donations and other redistribution (e.g. to animal feed), is currently only possible with the help of estimates due to data gaps - expert estimate for this report: 30% of losses are donated. In the course of further work, these quantities and the causes of losses must be analysed in order to derive reduction measures.

Links and Downloads

Lebensmittelwertschätzen - Dialogforum Groß- und Einzelhandel

CSCP - Dialogfoum Groß- und Einzelhandel

Beteiligungserklärung der Teilnehmenden

Pressemitteilung - Handel unterzeichnet Erklärung: Lebensmittelverschwendung reduzieren

Interim Report

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau (BÖLN)
    (national, öffentlich)


8.2019 - 12.2022

More Information

Project funding number: 2819NA019
Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau und andere Formen nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft (BÖLN)
Project status: finished

Publications to the project

  1. 0

    Lehn F, Schmidt TG (2023) Sustainability assessment of food-waste-reduction measures by converting surplus food into processed food products for human consumption. Sustainability 15(1):635, DOI:10.3390/su15010635

  2. 1

    Heinrich M, Orr L, Brüggemann N, Schmidt TG (2022) Monitoring der Lebensmittelabfälle und -weitergabe im Dialogforum Groß- und Einzelhandel 2019/2020 - Betrachtung der Abschreibungen. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 24 p, Thünen Working Paper 194, DOI:10.3220/WP1655198161000

  3. 2

    Orr L, Schmidt TG (2021) Lebensmittelabfälle im Handel reduzieren. Braunschweig: Thünen-Institut für Marktanalyse, 2 p, Project Brief Thünen Inst 2021/08, DOI:10.3220/PB1615472542000

  4. 3

    Schmidt TG, Orr L (2021) Monitoring der Lebensmittelabfälle im Groß- und Einzelhandel in Deutschland 2019: Daten des Lebensmitteleinzelhandels. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 31 p, Thünen Working Paper 168, DOI:10.3220/WP1613554682000

  5. 4

    Schmidt TG, Orr L (2021) Monitoring food waste in the wholesale and retail sector in Germany 2019: Food retail data. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 29 p, Thünen Working Paper 168a, DOI:10.3220/WP1613555002000

  6. 5

    Orr L, Schmidt TG (2021) Reducing food waste in retail. Braunschweig: Thünen Institute of Market Analysis, 2 p, Project Brief Thünen Inst 2021/08a, DOI:10.3220/PB1615797125000

  7. 6

    Schmidt TG, Orr L (2020) Lebensmittelabfälle - Messen ist der erste Schritt zu wirksamen Reduzierungsmaßnahmen [online]. Recht Z Eur Lebensmittelrecht(1):34-37, zu finden in <> [zitiert am 01.04.2020], DOI:10.23789/1868-0763-2020-1-30

  8. 7

    Orr L, Schmidt TG (2020) Monitoring der Lebensmittelverluste im Lebensmittelhandel. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 68 p, Thünen Working Paper 154, DOI:10.3220/WP1598947100000

  9. 8

    Schmidt TG, Orr L (2020) Wo geht wie viel verloren? DLG Mitt(12):66-68

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