Tech start-ups turning food waste into treasure
By Laura Campbell
Vegans preach about the value of plant-based diets in saving the planet, yet the western world seems to still ignore the fact that 13% of global carbon emissions come from food waste. 1/3rd (1.3 billion tonnes) of the global food produced each year feeds bins according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, whilst across the globe, millions starve. 13% of the UK lives below the poverty line, having to decide with rising fuel bills between food and heating. As with most problems, it has fallen to clever start-up businesses to find solutions to the world’s problems with Too Good to Go, Olio, Winnow, Karma, Throw No More, Wasteless, Spoiler Alert, FoodCloud, Gander, Bio-Bean, and many more, pioneering clever ways to stop the food waste scandal or turn it into treasure.
It has been estimated that if food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China, according to Tristram Stuart. Stuart is the food waste campaigner, author, founder of Toast Ale (beer made of recycled toast) and environmental expert who has been pioneering for food waste changes for over twenty years. His work, both independently and with the UK charity Wrap, has motivated many young startups and campaigners who see both environmental, societal, and financial gain in food waste prevention and redistribution. For years the western world has thrived on economic stability and as a result undervalued high quality food availability and accessibility. However, with the war in Ukraine causing global food shortages and increased food prices, increased taxation, and disrupted food supply chains due to the aftermath of Coronavirus, Brexit and inflation and tensions with China and the USA, hunger is once again a growing problem. People only care about food when it is suddenly less obtainable, and their expectations are not met. In a bid to save the planet and help reduce hunger, tech start-ups are finding clever ways to stop the waste or feed people not bins.
Overall, what will save the food waste problem?
Through life observations and in researching this article, I have deduced that the only way to stop people from seeing food currently wasted as “lower quality” and “disgusting” and those who eat leftovers and reduced food as somehow cheap or less generous, is to incentivise them towards changed perceptions and behaviour around food waste. Start-ups are doing this with:
1) Money: give people a financial incentive to stop food waste by offering food that would be wasted at a free or subsidised rate- OLIO • Share More, Waste Less, Gander , Too Good To Go, Phenix, Throw No More.
2) Ethical reasons: show them the benefits to people and the planet via reduced carbon emissions and reduced hunger — WRAP, Feedback, love food hate waste, Waste2es, Tidy Planet Limited. Tristram Stuart.
3) Nutritional: showing people the nutritional benefits of reducing food waste to their health and wellbeing- supermarkets, medics, dieticians and nutritionists Lidl GB, Waitrose & Partners, Walmart, Carrefour, The British Dietetic Association (BDA) NHS England.
4) Social: making food waste solutions popular and cool. People follow the herd mentality in order to survive and thrive and so if the food waste issue gains the recognition it deserves and people become aware of the flaws in their current behaviour, change will follow- FoodHack, The Grocer, Financial Times, Sifted, The Telegraph, Health Tech News, WIRED, Reddit, Inc. The Guardian, Future, Hearst UK, Condé Nast.
5) Finding ways of stopping the waste itself: Greyparrot, GOODFISH, Outcast Foods, GROUNDED®, Notmilk, Kebony, Enevo, Inc., Winnow.
Startups solving the food waste problem
Olio is an app for food-sharing that aims to reduce food waste. It was founded in 2015 by Tessa Clarke, Saasha Celestial-One and is currently in 49 countries. Tessa says “as kids we were taught to eat our veggies, so they didn’t go to waste, yet as adults, we’re often desensitized to the amount of unspoiled sustenance discarded worldwide every day. Olio helps find a home for unwanted edibles, using local postings that are a snap to create or browse. Whether a nearby farm is getting rid of excess veg or we’re going on holiday and want the chorizo meatballs in our fridge to end up on a neighbour’s plate instead of in the trash, Olio is a feel-good way to reduce food waste.” It currently has received over £43 million in investment and has a firm valuation of £172 to £258 million and continues to grow.
Gander, based in the Isle of Man, is an app that connects consumers directly to a comprehensive list of price reductions on stickered food sitting on the shelves of their local store, reducing food waste and saving the consumer money. It also works with FoodDrop, an Irish company founded by Mike Osborne which connects surplus food to local charities for redistribution. Gander was founded in 2019 and is currently growing. Phenix (which in 2021 also bought MyFoody, an app similar to Gander), is a French zero waste app, which was founded by Jean Moreau in 2014. It both gives away unsold food to the most vulnerable and helps people buy unsold items from merchants at a reduced price. It is hugely popular across France and has already expanded to 5 countries and has over £5million in investment. Too Good To Go is the big name on campus for supermarket resale apps though, with over £45 million in investment. Founded in 2015 by Chris Wilson and Jamie Crummie in the UK in a bid to save food from landfills, it has expanded over the whole of Europe. The Danish app Throw No More, founded by Kurt Falch Stokke, is also attempting to redistribute supermarket overflow. The company Yindii is attempting this in Thailand.
Winnow was founded by Marc Zornes and Kevin Duffy and is an app that helps commercial kitchens reduce food waste. They use Winnow Vision technology, AI-enabled tools, which work in the kitchen to automatically track and reduce food waste and save money and the planet. It currently has over £40 million investment. GreyParrot was founded by Mikela Druckman and Nikola Sivacki in 2018 and uses AI to track and reduce food waste at each stage of production and improve quality. It currently has a nearly £4 million investment and is growing year on year.
Another way to reduce food waste is to turn the food waste into something useful. This is exactly what the startup GoodFish does. Founded in 2019 by the founders of Harmless Harvest, Justin Guilbert and Douglas Riboud and supported by the adventure man Bear Grylls, it turns discarded salmon skins into crisps. NotMilk is made by NotCo, a food brand whose mission was to reinvent favourite waste foods without the use of animals, while not compromising on taste. They use plant-based ingredients and accomplish this by using artificial intelligence. In fact, their AI has a name — Giuseppe. According to the company “Giuseppe can quickly identify ingredients from plants that are ideal replacements for animal-based products, replicating them based on taste, feel, function and nutritional profile.” The company has been supported by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and celebrities including Roger Federer and Lewis Hamilton and has received billions of pounds of investment over the last few years. Outcast foods is a food technology company that upcycles unwanted produce to create sustainable nutrition products that improve health, and performance and positively impact the environment. Founded in 2017 by Darren Burke and TJ Galiardi in Canada, it upcycles rejected fruit and vegetables and turns them into dietary supplements, a booming industry. It currently has a £11million investment and is growing.
The world of food waste reduction is a fast and exciting pustulous spot about to explode. With benefits to the economy, individual, planet and society, startups that innovate towards food waste reduction are a no-brainer and potentially lucrative investment opportunity. Watch this space as great things are coming that will change the way we grow food, cook, eat, and discard food forever.
Copyright Laura Campbell 21/04/2022