New to the Bunch: Luke, Head of Customer Success

Luke Diaz
,
Head of Customer Success
Luke Diaz
Head of Customer Success

In our New to the Bunch series, our freshest Afreshies discuss what brought them to Afresh and what motivates their connection to our mission. Find more stories on the blog and check the Careers page for current openings.

At Afresh, we’re creating solutions that help build a better future for all of us. And what I’ve come to realize is this: The paths that lead us to a mission-driven company like Afresh are different for everyone. And it’s the impact we make every day that keeps us here.

Here’s where my path to Afresh started and what I learned along the way:

Last year my wife Kristen and I watched a documentary called The Game Changers on Netflix. One of the show’s producers, Kyle Vogt, had recommended it, so naturally I was a bit skeptical. Was this yet another food documentary claiming to have discovered the “perfect” diet? But as we watched, my skepticism gradually shifted to consideration: Can a plant-based diet really be as beneficial as they’re claiming?

The Game Changers highlights the benefits of plant-based nutrition in two primary ways:

  1. Testimonials of professional athletes
  2. Scientific evidence

I won’t belabor all the details in this forum, but suffice to say I was intrigued enough to adopt a primarily plant-based diet. Results came in the first 2-3 months: I lost 9 pounds, gained strength, increased my energy, and generally felt less bloated. 

But my newfound diet soon brought a new challenge: how to source an entirely new regiment of fresh food.

Fresh vegetables on a grocery store shelf

Eating fresh is hard

I quickly learned two things about fresh food, especially produce: 1) it’s expensive, and 2) it doesn’t last very long. I swear my raspberries will go bad in 2-3 days. Grrrr. 

My family’s grocery budget doubled, and I’m embarrassed to admit that 30% of the produce I initially bought went bad:

  • The three bagged chopped salads I bought for lunch? Green slime.
  • Those vine-ripe tomatoes I bought for vegan bruschetta? Vine-rotten.
  • The celery I planned to slather with almond butter? Completely forgotten.  

I even managed to neglect three sweet potatoes which soon spoiled. Sweet potatoes! Surely sweet potatoes are one of the more durable members of the fresh family. My wastefulness was rampant.  

Dejected and despaired, I tossed my rotten produce in a brown paper bag—a group coffin for my fallen, once-fresh friends. 

“What a waste of food!” I scolded myself. The sad truth became clear: in my overzealousness to adopt a new diet, I had severely over purchased.

Managing fresh is even harder

On my next trip to the grocery store, I sheepishly sought advice from a produce manager: “Mind if I ask you a question?” Charlie, a stout red-haired gentleman, gave me a flustered glance: ”Uh, yeah. Sure.”

“How do you keep track of all this stuff? I asked. “I mean, at home I just wasted 30% of what I bought due to spoilage. How do you manage that for hundreds of items?”

“It ain’t easy,” Charlie gruffed as he thumbed his apron straps. “Every day I write down what we got in the store on this here sheet of paper, and then I do some arithmetic to figure out how much to order for tomorrow. It’s a bit like whack-a-mole,” he said with a hint of smile.

I was puzzled. Surely grocery stores—managing the complexity of hundreds of produce items across thousands of locations—wouldn’t be taking inventory with pen and paper. Even the most talented and knowledgeable operators could benefit from technology, right?

But it turns out Charlie isn’t alone. Pen and paper is a common practice in produce inventory management. Meanwhile I was getting worried: If I can cause so much waste in my own refrigerator, what does waste look like across the entire labyrinthian food supply chain?

Food waste is a big problem

It turns out food waste—what grocers call “shrink”—is a big problem:

“The United States discards more food than any other country in the world: nearly 40 million tons — 80 billion pounds — every year. That’s estimated to be 30-40 percent of the entire US food supply, and equates to 219 pounds of waste per person. That’s like every person in America throwing more than 650 average-sized apples right into the garbage — or rather right into landfills, as most discarded food ends up there. In fact, food is the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills, making up 22 percent of municipal solid waste.” (source: RTS)

The more I learned, the more exasperated I became: How on earth are we wasting 80 billions pounds of food each year?! Why?!

Meanwhile, 9 million people die of starvation each year.

I was beginning to feel that unsettling mix of rage and intrigue. And that’s when I was introduced to a company called Afresh.

Enter, Afresh

Afresh makes software to help grocers like Charlie order fresh food more efficiently. Informed by the grocer’s own knowledge, the Afresh system leverages machine learning to make recommendations on order quantity. The goal? Shrink the shrink while increasing revenue via superb quality. I found this video of Matt Schwartz (Afresh CEO and Co-founder) particularly helpful.

The documented impact of the Afresh platform on grocery store operations is profound [and no more pen and paper inventory]:

Average metrics across all stores that use Afresh

Afresh is, like the documentary I had watched, a game changer when it comes to eliminating food waste. I’m honored to be part of the mission.

My recruiting pitch

I joined Afresh in July 2021 as Head of Customer Success. Prior to that, I was at a career crossroads and evaluating four job offers. I ultimately decided on Afresh for the following reasons:

  1. Mission: Afresh is doing something net positive for the world, e.g. one of our goals is to eliminate food waste which is directly linked to climate change.
  2. People: Every person I met during the interview process was well-informed, candid, and humble. They exhibited a rare blend of ferocious intellectual horsepower + high EQ, and their passion for the mission was downright contagious. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) were part of almost every interview which I sincerely appreciated. 
  3. Business: Afresh is delivering measurable business impact for the grocery partners we serve; as a result, Afresh’s business is thriving.
  4. Product: Our product is beloved by users, proven by our NPS of 72. Afresh is also a “must have” technology vs. a “nice to have” which makes a world of difference for long-term success.
  5. Other important factors: Intentional DEIB-first mindset, competitive cash + equity, mandatory PTO, impressive benefits (e.g. generous family leave), remote friendly.

And to my great delight, Afresh also allows employees to expense $100 on groceries per month, which promotes a healthy diet of fresh food!

We’re currently hiring an Enterprise Account Manager and many other positions as well. If any of this interests you, feel free to drop me a note (luke@afresh.com) or check out our Careers page to learn more.