Seven-Eleven Japan Co. and Lawson Inc. said Friday they will start discounting rice balls and lunch boxes that are close to their expiration date in order to reduce food waste, a large issue in the country due to the 6 million tons of edible food discarded annually.

The convenience store operators will offer customers enrolled in the chains' point programs shopping credits worth 5 percent of the value of purchases as an incentive for buying such products. They have been selling products at list price and had all but banned franchise store owners from offering discounts.

The move by the companies to embrace discounts is also expected to benefit outlets struggling with rising payroll costs at a time of severe labor shortages, which is occurring against the backdrop of a rapidly graying population.