The East of England Co-op has become the first major retailer to start selling products beyond their ‘best before’ date with the aim of significantly reducing food waste in its stores.

The biggest independent retailer in East Anglia will sell products over their best before date in its 125 food stores for a nominal 10p. The move, which follows a successful three month trial in 14 of the Co-op’s stores, will be launched with new campaign – ‘The Co-op Guide to Dating’.

The campaign will tell shoppers ‘Don’t be a binner, have it for dinner!’ and ‘It’s not nice to get dumped’ in an effort to encourage participation.

The majority of products that use best before dates will be included, such as tinned goods, packets and dried food. The 10p reduced products will not include ‘use by’ dated products, which should not be consumed after the use by date has passed. The East of England Co-op anticipates the initiative has the potential to save at least two metric tonnes from being wasted every year.

The Food Standards Agency advises that products past their best before date are safe to consume, but may not be at the optimum quality intended by the producer. The heavily reduced products will remain on sale for one month past their best before date.

Roger Grosvenor, joint chief executive at the East of England Co-op heads up the company’s retail division and has spear-headed the initiative, said: “We are committed to reducing waste in our business and The Co-op Guide to Dating is one of many initiatives we have instigated to make the East of England Co-op as efficient as possible, reducing our impact on the environment.

“During our trial we found our 10p items went within hours of being reduced, sometimes quicker,” said Roger. “The vast majority of our customers understand they are fine to eat and appreciate the opportunity to make a significant saving on some of their favourite products.

“This is not a money making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain. By selling perfectly edible food we can save 50,000 plus items every year which would otherwise have gone to waste.”

The East of England Co-op has also instigated a new ‘Reduced to Clear’ policy, offering more significant discounts earlier in the day on products nearing their use by dates to further help reduce waste.