– Published on
March 30, 2022

Reduce food waste with clever illusions and creative merchandising

One thing that causes food waste in stores is to always keep the shelves fully stocked. A lot of food retailers overstock to create a sense of abundance. People generally don’t like the last item on the shelf. “What’s wrong with this one if it’s not been taken yet?”

The magic of mirrors

Newer shelves and fridges have great functions for this, like the ones that push the products forward when you take one out. A more classic trick in the book is the mirrors. From the very first time humans saw their reflections in a puddle and thought it was magic, we´ve recognised the power the mirror image provides. Mirrors are common in fruit and vegetable departments to make it look fully stocked and bigger.

Cardboard illusions

In late 2021, parts of the world suffered from food scarcity due to staff shortages and rough weather conditions all over the supply chains. Grocery stores desperately tried to cover up the empty shelves with cardboard impersonating the missing items. This move was quite mocked on twitter and such but if you think about it out of a food waste perspective it’s actually not so dumb. In Sweden, Stora Coop Visby together with Too good to go, started using pictures of bread in their bread shelves so that it looks fully stacked even if it wasn't. The bread illusion is an initiative among many that the store takes to reduce their waste. Clearly, this decoy move can be received in different ways, so it might be a good idea to also communicate WHY you are doing it so the customer doesn't end up feeling bamboozled.

Tesco have the fake asparagus out this morning

— Patrick Dalton (@shitlondon) October 22, 2021

Inspirational combos

Mirrors and illusions aside, what else can you do to avoid those empty shelves? A method ICA Kvantum Bäckebol often uses is to turn the shelf into an inspirational area instead of over ordering one product. Let’s say that you only have a few chickens left, and it starts to look a bit sad and empty. Think about what other products you want to sell and make a combo. Put the taco spices next to the chickens. Add some limes and avocados and boom, a great inspo for a delicious dinner instead of an empty shelf or a full shelf that can be at risk of becoming food waste.

Fia Sjöström
Content Creator & Marketing specialist

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