As part of Afresh’s celebration of Earth Month, we hosted a webinar on Stop Food Waste Day in collaboration with Imperfect Foods, Apeel, and Too Good to Go to discuss innovative solutions across the supply chain and inspire conversations around what people can do to eliminate food waste.
As moderator Chris Cochran, Founder and Principal of Good Food Advisors, shared, “These companies are part of a cohort of emerging, venture-backed startups that are really proving how we can do well by doing good.”
To set the stage for what’s at stake, Cochran began by sharing that our food system makes up half of all land use globally, accounts for 70% of all water use, and produces 25% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If the GHG emissions from food waste were equivalent to that of a country, they would represent the third largest country in the world, behind the U.S. and China.
Apeel VP of Sustainability Jess Vieira also shared that for the first time, the most recent IPCC report highlighted the role of consumer behavior and consumption patterns in reducing global GHG emissions. “Of all of the solutions and total avoided emissions we can create as a global society, 40-70% will need to come from consumption patterns – choices that each of us make every day,” said Vieira.
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Food waste is a huge problem with a huge opportunity
All four companies ultimately interact with the consumer, whether they’re selecting an Apeel-protected or Afresh-ordered avocado at the grocery store, a Surprise Bag from Too Good to Go filled with avocado toast, or a box with a cosmetically challenged avocado from Imperfect Foods.
“Selecting, eating, and for many of us here today, working in food, is something we participate in every day,” said Rose Hartley, Sustainability Manager at Imperfect Foods. When helping curb the climate crisis is as simple and delicious as buying our favorite fruit or saving it from going to waste, sustainable choices can become a bigger part of our daily lives.
Furthermore, the link between human health and environmental health is clear when it comes to food production and consumption. “If we improve our food system, we have a really great shot at improving the lives of people and the health of our planet,” said Matt Schwartz, co-founder and CEO of Afresh.
Building awareness of the solvable problem of food waste
According to Claire Oliverson, US Head of Marketing at Too Good to Go, one of the main challenges is driving awareness of the existence of food surplus at the retail level. For example, a local pizza shop may make 50 pies a day, sometimes selling 38, and sometimes selling 40, but they always have a little bit extra.
“Waste is super expensive, because you’re not only paying to produce something, you’re also paying to waste it. Trash is not free,” echoed Hartley.
For Imperfect Foods, their work stems largely from vendors telling them what’s in danger of being wasted. So when a manufacturer reached out to share that pretzel pieces falling off the line were becoming a cost center, Imperfect developed a chocolate-covered pretzel that could instead turn them into a delicious profit center.
And for Apeel, the challenge is even more nebulous. The protective plant-derived coatings the company applies to items like avocados “are actually selling time, to some extent,” according to Vieira. But the question remains: how do you sell something invisible? Apeel’s time lapse videos show how their product helps reduce food waste that comes from oxidation and spoilage.
Being in the business of doing good
In addition to reducing water loss, GHG emissions, and millions of tons of food waste, the mission-driven companies on the panel are also driving profits for their customers.
“What we’ve discovered [at Afresh] is that there is a 1:1 causal effect between reducing waste and increasing profits,” said Schwartz. By the end of 2022, Afresh expects to serve 10% of U.S. grocery stores, reducing shrink by an average of 25% for its customers and providing a 3% lift in sales.
At Too Good to Go, Oliverson is also looking for the win-win-win. When a customer pays one-third of the price for an item that they would normally, independent shops see an important new source of revenue, and 5.5 lbs of CO2 emissions are avoided.
The road ahead to stop food waste
While “Big Food” has made strides to address its role in food waste, there’s still a lot of important work to be done.
To date, Afresh has saved over 7.9 million pounds of food from going to waste; Imperfect Foods has saved 159 million pounds of food from lesser outcomes; Apeel has prevented 42 million pieces of produce from going to waste; and a Surprise Bag from Too Good to Go is picked up every two seconds, saving the GHG equivalent of charging a smartphone 422 times.
“The pandemic and inflation did nothing but accelerate the needs that existed in these spaces before. There are now more opportunities for folks here to get involved, and for these businesses to do better,” said Schwartz in closing.
How to get involved
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to shop sustainably for your favorite foods. Plus, you can expand your climate efforts by working at companies like these!
Interested in getting involved? Afresh is hiring for roles across our remote-friendly organization.
View the full recording here.
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Learn more about our impact to date in our 2021 Impact Report.