Sheffield Hallam University students join forces with Asda and Warburtons on planet-friendly shopping

By Ben Dodd

Sheffield Hallam University students are working with supermarket giant Asda to help make shopping better for the environment.

The project, called the Food Innovation Consultancy Challenge (FICC), will see 63 final year students from the Food & Nutrition and the Food Marketing Management courses partner with businesses to find new ways to make shopping more healthy and sustainable for people and planet.

The refill aisle at Asda’s Middleton store

The students will work with Asda and Warburtons on projects that can help make a real difference to how the companies operate.

They will be split into groups and given a focus area – for those working with Asda, these areas of focus will be refill, healthy eating, wastage at home and wastage in store.

Other students will also be considering the healthy eating agenda with Warburtons on a project looking at a new innovation to meet changing consumer needs.

Susan Thomas, Senior Director of Sustainability for Asda, said: “We’re excited to see what ideas the students come up with and would love to implement any viable proposals which can help us progress on our ambitious Better Planet & Better Lives agenda.”

The supermarket chain currently has a ‘sustainability store’ in Middleton, Leeds, where new ideas are trialled before being implemented on a larger scale.

Asda’s sustainability trial store at Middleton, Leeds

Currently, the store operates a refill system for certain goods, such as dried foods like pasta and rice, drinks such as Vimto, and some non-food items. The idea is to allow customers to refill on these items without having to buy another pack, eliminating waste.

Some students working with Asda will be working on ways to expand this idea, for example to include more perishable items like dairy foods and online orders.

For students focussing on nutrition and health, the challenge is to consider impending legislation on high fat, salt and sugar products and the various opportunities Asda has to encourage healthier choices amongst customers.

This aspect has taken on greater importance over the past year, given the fact that obesity is a risk factor in Covid mortality.

It’s not a make believe problem, it’s a real life issue

Dr Michael benson, shu

Dr Michael Benson, principal lecturer in the department of Finance, Accounting and Business, who is overseeing the FICC said: “To achieve Sheffield Hallam’s mission of giving all students the chance for applied learning, the Food Innovation Consultancy Challenge works directly with industry partners on real life challenges.

“It’s not a make-believe problem, it’s a real-life issue for students to solve, which is fantastic experience.”

Other projects include working to reduce or eliminate plastic packaging and finding ways for retailers to educate consumers on reducing waste at home.

The programme has been running for three years, and around two students every year are offered a job directly as a result of their work with the industry partners.

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