Tackling food waste at Tesco: Olio and FareShare’s charity-first, community-second approach to surplus food redistribution

An Olio volunteer carrying out a collection at Tesco Cheshunt Extra

A bit about Tesco and Olio

Tesco is the biggest supermarket chain in the country – with nearly 3,000 stores in the UK alone. Tesco was also the founding partnership for Olio’s Food Waste Heroes Programme – so it holds a special place in our hearts!

How we started working together

Tesco has always had ambitious food waste reduction targets. Most recently, it’s pledged to halve food waste in its own operations by 2025 – that’s five years ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (by 2030).

In 2019, Tesco started looking for ways to up the amount of surplus they could redistribute, on top of what they were already doing through their partnership with FareShare and its national network of charities. 

They ran a trial with Olio and FareShare across 250 stores, where surplus food levels were particularly high, and there weren’t so many Fareshare charities available. The idea was that Olio volunteers would step in wherever charities couldn’t to rescue unsold food.

The trial was a big success, and in 2020, Tesco rolled out Olio across its stores nationally. We’re now working together in 2,968 stores – and we’ve rescued an incredible 35 million meals since the start of our partnership.

A member of Tesco store staff prepares discounted food for an Olio collection

How our partnership has developed since we started working together 

Together with FareShare and Foodiverse, Olio has built an innovative, collaborative surplus redistribution solution. This unique food sharing system is the first multi-level redistribution solution of its type, and means that as much Tesco food as possible gets  redistributed for human consumption.

FareShare charities collect Tesco’s surplus in areas where there is enough charity coverage. Wherever charities are unavailable, have to cancel, or aren’t capable of taking certain food types or quantities, Olio volunteers are called up to collect. 

Here’s how it works in practice: 

Individual collections: Olio or FareShare only
If there’s a FareShare charity available, the charity gets allocated to the Tesco collection.
If there are no charities available, Olio volunteers are allocated to the Tesco collection.

Multi-collector: Olio and FareShare
If the FareShare charity can collect all Tesco food types – which can vary between chilled, ambient, bakery and more – then the charity is allocated to the collection.
If the charity can only take certain food types, Olio volunteers step in to collect whatever charities can’t.

Waitlist collections: Olio only
Where there was a charity allocated to a Tesco collection, but the charity is no longer able to collect for whatever reason, Olio volunteers step in at the last minute to claim the collection

A snapshot of the food collected by Olio volunteers from Tesco stores each day

Unlike traditional surplus redistribution solutions, these three strands to our partnership mean that Tesco doesn’t have to rely solely on charities to get surplus food out to communities surrounding its stores. Olio’s national network of 80,000, fully food safety trained volunteers can collect surplus wherever charities can’t, and can share food in as little as 30 minutes once they’ve picked it up. 

Through these three types of collections, Olio has helped Tesco up the amount of food it’s able to redistribute by a massive 65%. 

Our joint impact

35 million

Meals rescued and shared with UK communities


families fed through surplus food we’ve rescued

6 million tonnes

of Co2 stopped from entering the atmosphere

11 billion litres

of water saved through our partnership

Across the 2,968 Tesco stores where Olio is in place, we’ve rescued a massive 35 million meals! That food roughly adds up to having fed 200,000 families since we started working together.

Environmentally, we’ve saved the equivalent of 6 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere (that’s the same as flying from London to New York and back 65,000 times).We’ve also saved 11 billion litres of water (that’s 180,000 swimming pools), planted 2 million trees and taken over 200 million car miles off the road.

If you add FareShare data into the picture, together, we’ve rescued 180 million meals, and avoided 187 million kgs of Co2 emissions. 

Start working with Olio today

Already working with a charity partner? Get in touch with Olio today to see how we could up the amount of food redistributed for human consumption across your stores. 

Note: The figures in this case study represent Olio and Tesco’s joint impact from August 2020 up until April 2023