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Solving the Surplus Food Puzzle


Tech startups are designing sophisticated solutions to tackle global food waste.

According to the United Nations, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year, which is about a third of all food produced. As environmental concerns increasingly spark change around the world and consumers seek more sustainable living practices, tech startups are stepping in to tackle the problem of food waste; a wave of new food waste apps has entered the global market, aiming to fix the food system at the consumer level.

After first launching in Stockholm in 2016, Swedish company Karma has since landed in London in 2018 and Paris in 2019, and is continuing its expansion across the UK, opening it’s latest hub in Brighton in October 2019. Karma connects consumers with local restaurants, cafes and grocery stores who sell their unused food at half price, incentivizing retailers with additional income and shoppers with discounted costs.

To satisfy growing demand, Karma has partnered with Electrolux to develop a smart refrigerator that allows users to order surplus food and unlock the fridge from Karma’s app. After a year-long pilot, Karma and Electrolux announced in September 2019 that the program will be commercialized, rolling out to 45 grocery stores in Sweden by the end of the year. And, to make it even easier for consumers to purchase surplus food, they will also run a trial placing the smart refrigerators in Stockholm’s central underground station, so consumers can conveniently pick up their groceries on their commute home.

“The world is finally awakening to the fact that our planet is not invincible, and we should all do more to help reverse climate change,” Charlotte Humphries, Karma’s UK marketing manager, tells the Innovation Group. “One way to do that is to change small patterns in our behavior that can make the difference. That’s where food waste apps come in, and why they have become so popular across the globe. By breaking it down into individual meals, and every bite of food, apps like Karma are able to make huge impact in consumer behaviour.”

Kitche is another tech startup tackling food waste in the UK. Launched in August 2019, Kitche hopes to prevent people from wasting their food and their pennies by allowing users to scan their shopping receipts on the Kitche app to receive recipe plans designed to minimize waste. Users will also receive reminder notifications to consume their fruit and vegetable products five days after they’ve bought them.

In Northern Ireland, Gander has partnered with Henderson Group to help supermarkets reduce waste from their discounted sections. Working with SPAR, EUROSPAR, ViVO and ViVOxtra brands, the app notifies shoppers the moment a food item has gone on sale. Users can search for discounted products in real-time and filter their search by distance, category or dietary requirements. In Israel, SpareEat’s app also connects surplus food from supermarkets, restaurants and cafes to Tel Aviv citizens who can purchase it at discounted prices.

While food waste has long been an issue, new advances in technology are helping provide innovative and effective solutions.

Source: Maeve Prendergast for J. Walter Thompson Intelligence