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Food waste apps ‘revolutionising’ hospitality and catering sectors

The importance of using food waste apps to help reduce the amount of food ending up in landfill sites and improve sustainability at restaurants and foodservice businesses has been highlighted as the UK marked Stop Food Waste Day on 26 April.

Food waste is becoming a key issue for the industry to tackle, with studies from the IPCC showing that food waste contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, just less than the entire nation of China.


Smartphone apps addressing food waste are becoming more widely known in larger towns and cities across the UK and the rest of the world, offering the chance for users to buy bundles of discounted food from high-street shops, restaurants, and cafés in their area.


Some of the top UK food waste apps include TooGoodToGo, Olio, Munch and Karma.


Tessa Clarke, co-founder and CEO of Olio, recently held a Ted Talk discussing how one third of all the food we produce each year globally gets thrown away, which has a significant environmental impact.


The carbon emissions from 1kg of food waste is the equivalent to the carbon emissions from landfilling 25,000 plastic bottles, Olio said.


The company said that for the hospitality industry, food waste has been accepted as a by-product of the industry for far too long, with it being estimated that 18% of food waste in the UK comes from the hospitality and foodservice industry, meaning one in six meals are wasted.


Alberto Lo Bue, managing director of the Olio Food Waste Heroes Programme, said the majority of businesses now have sustainability strategies in place, which include waste reduction targets across their operations.


He added: “In the catering sector, we’ve seen a focus on effective stock management and storage, staff education, and having flexible menus that prevent waste. Many of our partners, like Compass Group UK&I and their hundreds of sites, have been at the forefront of this shift towards more sustainable ways of operating.


“It’s also worth noting that the government is making a step in the right direction after finally releasing a consultation indicating that by the end of 2024/25 financial year, it will be mandatory for businesses to measure and publicly report their food waste data.”


Olio launched its Food Waste Heroes Programme for businesses back in 2018. Through the programme, any business that sells or serves food – from supermarkets, schools and offices to pubs, cafes and coffee shops – can easily share surplus food with members of the local community.


Fast forward to 2023, and the firm now rescues food from more than 4,500 sites across the UK each week to be shared with people on the app, with a network of 85,000 volunteers working with the company.


Customers using food waste apps can buy bundles of food based on their dietary needs for a small fraction of the cost – usually between £2-5 depending on the amount of food and the specific business.


Those using the apps can expect anything from trays of doughnuts to bags of sandwiches and much more.


Many of the participating businesses offer ‘surprise’ bags, meaning food does not get turned down as much.


There are specific collection times and participating locations that can be found on the apps, but they all offer generous portions and cheap prices.


Not only do these apps prevent food waste, they also help many people may their money go further.


Ruiz Asri, chief knowledge officer and editor at independent food and media firm, Honest Food Talks, said: “Discounted food apps are revolutionising our approach to food waste by creating a market for surplus food, raising awareness, and promoting sustainable consumption.


“By tapping into the potential of these apps, we can work collectively towards a more efficient and environmentally responsible food system that benefits both businesses and consumers.”


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