Five food waste pioneers to watch this year

Apples rolling out of brown paper bag

A UN report has recently revealed that we waste almost a billion tonnes of food a year. Let that sink in – one billion tonnes. That’s the equivalent of one trillion birthday cakes or nine trillion bananas being tossed in the bin, and we’re each responsible for around 74 of those cakes, or 652 bananas every year. And that’s just in the home – the figure doesn’t include food waste from shops and restaurants, or in supply chains where food is often lost before it even reaches our plates. 

While Food Waste Action Week drew to a close in early March 2021, the report makes it clear that our fight against food waste must continue if we are to protect our planet and achieve the UN Sustainable Goal of Zero Hunger in less than a decade.

Each of us has a role to play in reducing the amount of food we waste, by planning and shopping more consciously, storing food correctly to extend its shelf-life, and dishing out more appropriate portion sizes. But innovation and technology are also playing an increasingly significant role in our action against food waste, from generating solutions that rescue and redistribute surplus food to accurately measuring its freshness so that we can avoid throwing away produce which is still perfectly edible.

We’ve highlighted our top five businesses, who despite their differences in size and scale, are making strides in the fight against food waste through a range of pioneering strategies and technological innovations. We’re excited to follow their work as they continue to grow and develop, and we’re certain that they’ll be making a significant dent in our food waste mountain very soon!

1) Oddbox – B Corp

The why

Based in London, the business behind the boxes is on a mission to rescue the fruit and veg which never makes it to our supermarket shelves. The industrialisation of the food industry has increasingly led to produce being rejected due to its size and shape, and in the UK alone, this means that over 3 million tonnes of fruit and veg is being wasted, despite being ripe for the picking.

What they’re doing about it

Oddbox rescue the fruit and veg directly from farmers and pack it into their boxes, which are then sent out to homes across London, Brighton and the South East. To date, they’ve saved over 5,000 tonnes of fresh and delicious produce from being thrown away. And as a fellow B Corporation, ethics and sustainability are at the heart of everything Oddbox does. From using recyclable packaging and collecting their old boxes for re-use, to fighting food poverty through their partnership with The Felix Project and City Harvest, where they donate 5% of the produce they collect to those who need it most, Oddbox is having a huge impact. They also have big plans to expand their reach beyond the South East, aiming to rescue and deliver even more delicious produce across the UK.

2) Wasteless

The why

How many times have you rifled through the bread bags or milk cartons in your local supermarket to get hold of the one with the latest expiration date? Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. And so have Wasteless, who have caught onto our habits and realised that food is being wasted because consumers don’t want to pay the same price for a product which expires in two days, compared with one expiring in a week. ReFED have calculated that consumer facing businesses, which are mostly made up of retailers, account for 40% of food waste – a figure that could be vastly reduced by managing the sales of perishable products in relation to their expiry dates.

What they’re doing about it

Wasteless have created a dynamic pricing system, powered by AI, which uses information about consumer demand and habits to set optimal prices for perishable products and ensure they are sold before they expire. By adopting their Pricing Engine, Wasteless predict that retailers will not only see a 50% reduction in food waste, but also an increase of at least 20% in revenue, proving that taking action on food waste is commercially sensible as well as environmentally responsible. As part of EIT Food’s innovative network of RisingFoodStars, Wasteless are currently operating in both Europe and the US, where they aim to continue rolling out their machine-learning technology as a solution to food waste.

3) Mimica

The why

On the subject of expiry dates, did you know that the dates you see on your everyday supermarket products are based on the worst-case scenario? While this is designed to keep us safe, it means that most of us who store our food carefully are throwing it away well before it has actually expired, contributing to the 60% of totally edible food we’re tossing in the UK.

What they’re doing about it

Mimica’s temperature-sensitive indicator, available in either a flat label or a bottle-cap format, is designed to give confidence back to consumers by accurately displaying whether our food or drink is spoiled. Aptly named ‘Mimica Touch’, the label or cap contains a bio-responsive gel which reacts at the same rate as the food spoiling, producing bumps on the surface to indicate when it is no longer safe to consume. Mimica has been piloting this with major companies across the dairy, meat and juice industries, and are planning to hit supermarket shelves soon, where they predict that by adding just two extra days of shelf-life to perishable products, food waste could be sliced in half.

4) Winnow – B Corp

The why

While most of our pioneers have oriented their food waste solutions around consumers and retailers, Winnow have spotted another area where food frequently goes to waste – the kitchen, and specifically, professional kitchens across the hospitality and food services industry. According to WRAP, hospitality businesses waste around a quarter of the food that they purchase. If you’ve ever set foot in a busy restaurant, it’s clear they simply don’t have time to monitor and adapt their food purchases to cut down on the amount of food they’re throwing away.

What they’re doing about it

Winnow Vision is built on AI technology, designed to learn and recognise patterns of food waste in commercial kitchens so that businesses can make smarter buying choices which lead to less produce being thrown away. On average, kitchens using Winnow have seen their food waste halved, as well as their food purchasing costs reduced by up to 8%. With their game-changing technology already operational in over 30 countries, Winnow plan to make big strides towards the global target of cutting food waste by 50% in the next decade. Another certified B Corporation, Winnow’s ethics and sustainability extend beyond their food waste ambitions to every facet of their business culture and practices.

5) Too Good To Go – B Corp

The why

There’s hardly a sadder image than our favourite restaurant or café tossing all its unsold food at the end of the day – food that is perfectly edible, which many of us would gladly eat! According to To Good To Go, 4.5 million people in the UK are ready to rescue this food, and by connecting consumers with businesses, surplus food can be given a new destination that isn’t the bin, and food waste easily reduced.

What they’re doing about it

It’s as simple as signing up to the Too Good To Go app, which lets users know when they can go along to pick up a ‘Magic Bag’ of surplus food from their local restaurants, cafes, bakeries and supermarkets. So far, 3.4 million Magic Bags have been sold through Too Good To Go, and with each bag saving an average of 2.5kg of CO2e, the environmental benefit is not to be sniffed at. 

Too Good To Go’s proud B Corp status sees them going above and beyond to, in their words, ‘shake up the food system’, and with the app rolled out across Europe and expanding into the US in 2020, they have set themselves the bold target of inspiring 50 million people to take action on food waste.

We can all take action and make a difference thanks to these pioneering businesses. Follow them on social media for more information and great tips on how we can each play our part in the food waste revolution.

Stay tuned over the coming months as we continue to spotlight and interview more businesses as part of our Food Innovation Pioneers series. If you’re a pioneer tackling sustainability in the food industry, please get in touch with the Greenhouse team at info@greenhousepr.co.uk.

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