Innovation to cut food waste
Ilana Devillers & Xenia Ashby, co-founders of Food4All - Article written by Stephen Evans
Around one-third of food production is wasted say the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. In industrialised countries 40% of this occurs at the retail and consumer level. Two young female entrepreneurs from Luxembourg think this is a scandal and are working to cut this waste. Their technology-driven process-innovation company Food4All is being hosted and supported from Lux Future Lab.
There is often a perverse incentive for retailers to dump perfectly good food. To avoid the risk that out-of-date product is left on the shelves, many shops have a policy of removing food days before the use-by date. Shops want a reputation for stocking the freshest products, so leaving perished food on display would risk damaging their brand. Thus food is thrown away, even when it is perfectly good to eat.
Encouraging retailers and consumers
“We think it’s a scandal that so much food is wasted,” commented Ilana Devillers, Food4All’s co-founder. “Not only are there many people on low incomes who struggle to eat healthy and need this food, but this way of working is also harmful for the environment,” she added. “Enormous amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted when food is produced, packed, shipped, and stored, but just dumped at the end,” added Xénia Ashby the other co-founder.
Consumers also have a responsibility.
Too often we over-buy on our weekly shop, and inevitably some of this food can be forgotten about and will go bad at the back of the fridge. Also, the temptation to rely on take-away food has never been greater, when often the healthier option is cooking for oneself. New ways of shopping and food preparation are needed to encourage us to eat well and efficiently.
Xénia and Ilana see an information mismatch at the heart of this problem. It’s hard for retailers to be fully informed in real time of the state of their stock. It’s harder still for shoppers to locate bargains amongst the thousands of products on offer in supermarkets.
Process and technology innovation
This is where process and technology innovation can help. Rather than removing and pulping products that are nearing their expiration dates, supermarkets would have a Food4All aisle featuring these foods at a cut price.
Details of this would be up-loaded onto the Food4All inventory system using an intuitive interface. This information is then communicated speedily to consumers via a mobile app.
Shoppers would be able to browse the cut price products on the Food4All aisle, and the app would direct people to the offers available in store. Food4All will also provide shoppers with guidance, including innovations such as short recipe-videos based on the food available. “Not only will this attract bargain hunters to the store and so drive sales, but supporting this initiative will be positive for the retailer’s brand image as a socially responsible player,” commented Xénia. The business model is based on a close partnership between retailers and Food4All. In return for directing users to their store, Food4All will take a percentage of the sales from their aisle.
Founded in June 2017 as a simplified Sarl (one euro company), Food4All quickly received backing from Delhaize Luxembourg.
The technology is due to be tested over the summer before the service goes live in September. The Food4All aisle will feature a chilled cabinet, so all types of food will be available.
Nevertheless, their mission is to reduce food waste on a global level and are still looking for other partnerships to join the cause.
After only a couple of weeks in the Lux Future Lab, Xénia and Ilana have quickly come to appreciate the support on offer. “We have received early help with our business plan and how we approach financing,” explained Ilana. “Lux Future Lab advisers are helping us build a strategy that will be better understood by potential investors and lenders, and this support has been priceless,” she added. Being close to BGL BNP Paribas helps too.
Non-financial backing is also on offer, including access to skilled volunteering and facilities such as conference and office space, as well as IT material.
Being in the Lab also features support for legal and accounting matters, as well as the provision of training options and good value, centrally located office space. “It’s also the buzz of enthusiasm around this place that’s inspiring,” added Xénia speaking of the Lab’s boulevard Royal HQ.
Both women were raised in Luxembourg, and after their studies they realised they had an entrepreneurial urge that needed to find an outlet, but also a desire to make a difference to society at large. “Food waste and unhealthy eating are bad news for individuals and the wider community,” commented Ilana. “Our ambition is to make Food4All a commercial success but also to help change mentalities about the way we approach food shopping,” she added.