Greggs’ chief executive Ken McMeikan has pledged to crack down on wasted food, as he takes the helm of the UK’s largest bakery retailer.

McMeikan told British Baker: "We throw away sandwiches that we make that day, but they are still perfectly edible. I’m a little frustrated at the moment that we have to send a lot of product to landfill that could be used in different ways. We don’t want to."

Former Sainsbury’s retail director McMeikan, who is two months into his new role, said Greggs would work more closely with charities which distribute food fit for human consumption to hostels. "There are people in our country who cannot afford to eat; they are homeless. We should be doing more to ensure that they are eating, at least," he said.Greggs also hopes to boost the amount of food accepted by farmers for use in animal feed. There has been a dramatic downturn in demand since the introduction of Europe-wide animal by-product laws in 2005. Prior to this, Greggs gave away - or sold for a small fee - around 80% of food past its sell-by date to farmers. That figure now stands at 2%, said Greggs’ group safety, health and environmental manager Steve Peat.

The law bans meat products being fed back to animals, but products derived from cereals, such as plain bread, are permitted. "Farmers fear that something could get from the food waste into the food chain and they could be accountable," said Peat.

See features section for an exclusive interview with McMeikan.


=== Greggs: still Number One ===

Greggs is still in pole position as the UK’s largest bakery retailer, according to exclusive research carried out for British Baker (News Insight, page 14).

Our independent report shows Greggs, with 1,388 shops, as the retailer with the largest estate, although fast food operator Subway is catching up fast with 1,200 UK shops. Costa Coffee takes third place with 764 shops, while Starbucks comes in fourth, at 679 stores.

Greggs’ McMeikan said the company plans to expand gradually, focusing on areas of under-representation, including the south-west and north-west of England. Subway, meanwhile, has pledged to open 2010 shops by 2010.