The idea of so much good food being thrown away due to arbitrary dates set at the worst case scenario feels criminal to me, and I knew there had to be a more sophisticated system that respects food better than it does now.Solveiga Pakštaitė, Founder and Director of Mimica
Did you know that the expiry dates you see when you’re shopping at the supermarket are actually 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 while it’s still perfectly edible. In fact, a whopping 60% of the food we waste in the UK is still safe to eat – a flaw in the food chain that our latest food innovation pioneer was quick to spot.
Armed with her background in industrial design and passion for sustainable solutions, Solveiga Pakštaitė founded Mimica in 2017, inventing a biologically accurate food-spoilage indicator which would go on to take the food industry by storm. Aptly named ‘Mimica Touch’, it contains a bio-responsive gel which reacts when food or drink spoils by producing bumps on its surface. By giving confidence back to consumers, Solveiga predicts that Mimica’s innovation could slice food waste in half when it hits supermarket shelves.
Speaking to Solveiga, it’s clear that she is motivated by the opportunities for innovation to eradicate all kinds of injustices, from food waste to accessibility, and has no plans to stop any time soon. We caught up with her on Mimica’s exciting journey so far, the challenges she faces, her collaboration with organisations such as EIT Food and her visions for the future of food.
Tell us about you and Mimica – what’s your mission?
Mimica’s mission is to radically reduce unnecessary food waste. We are a UK-based design-led award-winning company with our product, Mimica Touch – a tactile temperature-sensitive label for food freshness indication. It helps you store your food at the right temperature, and reduces food waste by showing you when your food is actually good until, rather than relying on the wasteful worst-case scenario expiry date. It changes from smooth to bumpy when food should no longer be consumed. Having a more accurate and responsive system will reduce food waste and improve food safety.
What drives you?
I truly believe that the food industry can be better and our work every day inches towards that. Also, on a personal level, I am an obsessive lifelong learner, so when building a company you are learning all the time – that suits me very well!
Why have you chosen to tackle food waste?
The idea of so much good food being thrown away due to arbitrary dates set at the worst case scenario feels criminal to me and I knew there had to be a more sophisticated system that respects food better than it does now.
Actually, initially when this started as my university project, I set out to create a more inclusive food information system for people with visual impairments – I quickly realised that we’re all ‘blind’ to when our food really goes off, not just people who can’t see, and that’s why we waste so much.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
We are lucky to have had many successes at Mimica. We have developed ground-breaking scientific technology and have wonderful continuous support for our mission from the general public and from other organisations who want to help. We have created a world-class business that’s rooted in our values and creates great jobs, lending a hand when we can to deliver everything with kindness and decency. What’s not to love about all that?
What are the challenges you face?
One of our company values is “making the impossible possible”, which, simply put, means “dream big”. We are tackling systemic issues in the food industry with our cutting edge technology – this all takes time to develop and, as we deal with food safety, get right. We often find ourselves having to manage expectations for timelines, especially when we get compared to software companies. What we are doing would be the equivalent of having to create a new coding language first, and only then build and scale the product.
What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
We’re at the very exciting stage of setting up our first pilots with some of our potential customers from our waiting list. We’re scaling production of our bottle caps for beverages, as part of a UK-government funded project, and we recently kicked off a co-development project for our flat label with some of the largest meat producers in Europe and Aarhus University. Watch this space!
Where do you want to take Mimica next?
We are starting with juice as a proof of concept area and following this, all kinds of perishable foods can benefit from Mimica Touch. We will be launching on red meat and dairy within 18 months of our juice launch.
Looking further, we hope to radically reduce waste for other perishable products. We’re thinking of vaccines, cosmetics, even organ and blood donations – we want to be the new global standard for true longevity information.
Can you recommend a game-changing book or podcast for our readers?
Why I No Longer Talk to White People About Race by Reni Eddo Lodge was a perspective-shifting eye opener for me personally, and also in terms of how we look at diversity at Mimica, moving towards equity, rather than equality. We still have a lot more work to do.
Where do you see the food industry in five to ten years’ time, and where do you hope to see it?
I want to see a drastic change in the amount of food waste in the UK, and globally, I’m hoping that Mimica can become a global mark of freshness so that we as a society can achieve this.
Check out our Five food waste pioneers to watch this year, featuring Mimica, along with other innovators producing solutions to the food waste crisis.