This report is the latest in our bi-annual surveys of UK households and gathers evidence on food waste attitudes, knowledge, and behaviour. It is the largest and longest running series of its kind, having been undertaken by WRAP since 2007.

The two surveys in 2021 (of which this is the second, the first can be found here) have continued to understand and track the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on citizens’ food habits and behaviours.

Fieldwork was undertaken online between 27 October - 5 November 2021 with 4,547 UK adults with responsibility for food shopping and/or preparation. This covered a period when the UK began to open up again after widespread restrictions, but also a point that saw the emergence of the Omicron variant and ongoing caution about social interaction and returning to the workplace.

Key findings

The evolving context of Covid-19

  • More UK citizens now report feeling under time pressure in their day-to-day life (45%, compared to 37% in June 2020).
  • There are widespread concerns about food prices, with over half (52%) of UK citizens citing this. Close to one in six (18%) say they are concerned to the extent of not being able to buy enough food.

Food management competencies

  • UK citizens consider themselves to be broadly effective at checking the fridge before shopping (scoring themselves, on average, 7.2 out 10), keeping track of food in the fridge (7.4), using up food before it reaches the date label (7.5), freezing (7.7), using up leftovers (7.3), and combining random ingredients into a meal (7.2).
  • However, they rate themselves less positively at checking/changing the fridge temperature (5.3), making a meal plan for the week ahead (5.5), labelling products before storing in the fridge or freezer (5.2), and avoiding unplanned purchases (5.7).
  • The June 2021 survey noted that several behaviours had declined compared to 2020, as ‘normal’/busy lives began to get in the way of good habits. The latest findings suggest that behaviours have stabilised but remain lower than in lockdown.
  • The research also highlights a potential disconnect between freezing food (which scores highly at 7.7 out of 10) and then defrosting these items later (7.1). 

Self-reported levels of food waste

  • During the first lockdown, there was a sharp decrease in reported levels of food waste, thanks in part to the food management behaviours people adopted during lockdown. Waste of four key products fell from almost a quarter (24.1%) in November 2019 to 13.7% in April 2020 – a drop of 43%.
  • The latest finding – an average of 19.3% - is marginally down from June 2021 (19.7%) but still demonstrates that food waste is back in line with the levels recorded in 2018. Based on the latest estimates, almost three in 10 UK citizens (29%) classify as having higher levels of food waste.
  • 18-34s and those with younger children aged 0-10 are more likely to classify as having higher levels of food waste. The same is true of those who feel under time pressure, eat more meals out and takeaways, follow a diet and purchase a ready-made food kit or fruit and veg box.

Recall of information about food waste

  • There has been a strong rebound in the proportion of UK citizens who have heard or seen something about food waste, following a sharp fall in 2020. It has now returned to two in three (67%), one of the highest levels on record.
  • Just over one in four (26%) UK citizens say they recall hearing or seeing something about WRAP’s first Food Waste Action Week, held in March 2021. As a result, two in three (67%) among this cohort say they did something differently as a result (equivalent to 9.3 million UK adults).

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  • WRAP UK household food waste Winter 2021 Behaviours attitudes and awareness

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