An increasing number of grocers have taken to offering online ordering services.
The consumer can add food items to their cart, and either pick it up in store or have it delivered at a cost. But what if you could do this and contribute to eliminating waste at the same time?
Montreal-based startup FoodHero offers a virtual market, allowing merchants to sell food that would have otherwise ended up in the garbage – products that are still consumable. But FoodHero is not a food company.
“We are actually a technology company,” said Alexandria Laflamme, a FoodHero representative. “We developed an application with the primary goal to counter food waste.”
It is no secret that many food merchants dispose of food items that are still good. As per Second Harvest’s 2019 The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste report, nearly 60 per cent of food produced in Canada is wasted annually. In fact, Canada is among the top emitters where food waste is concerned. According to the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s (BCFN) 2018 Food Sustainability Index, Canada ranks fifth for overall food loss and waste.
“Our interface gives the consumer a chance to go give a second life to these products,” said Laflamme, adding that the products are offered at 25 to 60 per cent off their original price. Customers can search for products by store proximity and filter through food categories, allowing for them to shop accordingly to their diet, whether it be vegetarian, lactose-free, Halal or Kosher.
“Consumers are always thinking ‘oh, I don’t know what I can do,’ but FoodHero gives them the power to do something,” said Laflamme. “We act as an intermediary agent between the consumer and the merchant, and use technology to give them power.” She added that this technological aspect allows for their collaborators to still feel as though they are in charge and contributing to the issue at hand.
Being primarily a tech company, FoodHero worked on an algorithm within the application that allows the consumer to see the amount of emissions that were prevented through their cumulative orders and the kilograms of food waste saved. “The consumer can actually see their impact,” explained Laflamme. “This allows for them to make sense of what they are doing.”
FoodHero’s primary mission is to reduce food waste in grocery stores, which is currently at around 40 per cent worldwide, according to Laflamme and statistics found on the FoodHero website.
“Our goal is to work with many agents in the food industry,” said Laflamme, referring to producers and distributors. “Currently, we work only with grocery stores, which, in itself, is already a place where there is a huge amount of waste.”
“We are starting off. The statistics are still being accumulated but we are growing,” said Laflamme. “We started off collaborating with one IGA, three months ago, then six, and currently, we have over 100 IGA stores on board and are approaching the 200 mark.”
While the app has only been active for six months, the company has grown exponentially since their debut over the summer, due to a business model developed by the FoodHero team over the course of two years, and will soon be expanding to include Metro grocers.
“It was a very well thought out prototype,” said Laflamme. “It was thoroughly tested because it is a complex idea. Because of this, we are working well, and growing quickly.”
However, FoodHero is not the only player in the game. Flashfood, a similar app by Loblaw Companies Ltd., is currently partnered with 139 Maxi and Provigo locations throughout Quebec.
But what change does FoodHero hope to contribute to the overall problem? “Our objective is to have all our collaborating merchants be zero food waste by 2025,” said Laflamme.
While there is still a lot of work to be done in regards to waste in the food industry, Laflamme said that it is the everyday details, like shopping apps, that will contribute to making a change.
“It’s small steps that will allow for us to have a real impact,” said Laflamme.
More information about FoodHero can be found on their website https://foodhero.com/. Their app is available on the App Store and Google Play.
Graphic by @sundaeghost