Combatting food surplus one startup at a time – Part 1

We all love a new food company, whether it’s a healthy chocolate bar or protein energy balls. But what’s even better than refined sugar and dairy free chocolate? A company that tackles the (seemingly unglamorous) issue of food surplus.

Worldwide we are wasting a third of all produced food, which has serious economic and social consequences. Many companies are attempting to tackle this issue by adopting various approaches and starting at different stages of the supply chain. Some companies, such as ChicP and Rubies in the Rubble, target food retailers and restaurants by helping them manage the products they haven’t used. Others, like Snact and Dash Water, tackle the issue of food surplus at the source by using fruits and vegetables that do not meet the restrictive “beauty” standards of the food industry.

Let’s take a closer look at a few start-ups which are successfully reducing food surplus.

      1. Food surplus heroes

Food surplus heroes are companies focusing on recycling and reusing existing surplus to produce their delicious products. A notable example is Toast Ale, which makes brewed beer made from leftover bread sourced from bakeries at the end of the day, as well as ChicP, which produces hummus made from surplus vegetables.

A different approach adopted by some start-ups is to focus on wonky fruits and vegetables, which are considered unsuitable for supermarkets or other commercial purposes just because they are oversized or discoloured. Dash Water, for instance, produces carbonated zero-calorie water using unwanted cucumbers and lemons. Rejuce selects ugly fruit and veg from farms all over the UK and transforms them into cold pressed juices, whereas Peck Drinks was established by chicken farmers, who decided to use the “ugly” eggs that were left behind and turn them into a dairy-free protein drink.

Wonky Carrots

By using wonky fruits and vegetables and surplus as their main ingredients, these companies can reduce their production costs considerably, but also have to tackle the challenge of guaranteeing a constant supply in order to achieve their planned production levels. This is tied with ensuring a consistent quality of their ingredients, which cannot be always guaranteed because of their origin.

      2. Sharing economy champions

Another approach in tackling the issue of food surplus is inspired by the sharing economy– the umbrella-term to describe the redistribution or sharing of goods to increase efficiency. Sharing economy champions adopt this approach and devise systems to redistribute food surplus. For instance, Too Good to Go is an app which allows you to order food from restaurants, cafes, and bakeries at the end of the day for a quarter of the original price. This is a great example of rescuing food, which would have otherwise been wasted in the bin. Olio is another example of a free app, which connects people with their neighbours and with local shops with the aim of reducing surplus food by promoting redistribution and sharing. Following the same principles, The People’s Fridge is a project based in South London, which allows small traders and members of the public to donate any food they have leftover.

The People’s Fridge

One issue often faced by these companies is maintaining high food hygiene standards, which is both costly and time consuming. The People’s Fridge, for instance, tackles this issue by imposing several rules: the fridge does not accept raw meat, raw fish or opened milk. Furthermore, only registered food traders can donate produce that is prepared or cooked. Members of the public can donate food that is still in intact packaging, or fresh entirely uneaten produce; the fridge is also checked twice a day and all food no longer fit for consumption is binned at the end of the day.

Another concern for these start-ups to ensuring retention of their customers and partners; the solutions offered by sharing economy champions are often used on a casual, one-off basis and it’s difficult to entice the customers to return on a regular basis.


To read more about surplus-reducing startups, check out Part 2 of the article! 

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