When I launched ‘bye, bye waste series‘ I wanted to feature awesome people doing cool things to help the planet. I present to you the first interview (of hopefully many) with a zero waste champion. This one is with Elsa Bernadotte, COO and Co-founder of Karma, an app that helps to reduce food waste from restaurants and other independent food retailers.
What inspired you to make a tool such as the Karma app? Why is this app important?
Karma started out as a shopping app, giving consumers discounts for being loyal customers. During the development of the business, we saw that many restaurant and cafe owners chose to upload their surplus food as a kind of last-minute offer to minimise the risk of having to throw it away. From there, we got introduced to the issues with food waste on a bigger scale. This is how the idea of Karma was born – an easy-to-use and cost-effective platform for restaurants, cafes, delis, supermarkets and independent food retailers, on which they could sell unsold food. By making a shared platform on which customers and providers coexist and benefit each other, we found an effective solution for tackling the issue of food waste.
Reducing food waste has environmental, economic and social benefits, and all actions to tackle food waste are important. An app like Karma makes it easy for both retailers and restaurants, as well as end-users, to contribute to minimising the food waste that would otherwise go to landfill. Restaurants and independent retailers using Karma, has since February 2018, already rescued ten tonnes of food from landfill, which shows what an impact Karma has.
The issue of food waste is critical, and the UK Government posted their ‘Action to reduce food waste’, report on October 1st, 2018, announcing plans to significantly reduce the amount of waste from retailers and manufacturers by 2020. The report states, at present, 43,000 tonnes of surplus food produced by retailers and manufacturers is redistributed, but a further 100,000 tonnes – equivalent to 250 million meals a year, that is edible and readily available – is still going to waste.
What exactly the karma app does?
The Sweden-born app allows users to buy high-quality food at 50% off the in-store price directly from local restaurants, cafes, delis, grocers and other independent food retailers. These meals and ingredients would otherwise be sent to landfill due to being unsold at the close of the working day.
Restaurants, delis, cafes, grocers and other independent food retailers can join the app with no subscription fees. Users can then follow their favourite establishments, opting to receive a notification with what is on offer in real-time, as pre-prepared meals are added to the app. Through the intuitive Karma app (available on iOS and Android), users can:
- Log onto the free-to-use app and begin searching for their preferred meal, restaurant or shop.
- Based on location, Karma will find delicious meals, food items, and ingredients listed on the app by nearby connected suppliers, at 50% off the in-store price.
- Select the restaurant and preferred food item, pay directly through the app using Apple Pay, or any major credit or debit card, then simply pick up the meal at the location as take away.
Have you seen the difference this app has made?
We can track the impact Karma has on the environment, and since we launch the app has:
- Rescued 200 tonnes of edible food across London and Sweden.
- Reduced CO2 levels caused by food waste by 315 tonnes. The equivalent to 25,000 days of car use.
Users can also instantly see in the app how much food they have rescued and how much money they saved once they bought food.
What would you say, was the most difficult part of launching this app? Was it getting the restaurants to participate or gaining users?
It was getting the restaurants onboard. Everyone admits that food waste is a serious problem, but almost no establishments want to admit that they themselves are a part of that problem. The most common answer we get when approaching a new restaurant is “we do not waste any food” which we know they often do. Making them admit that they have a problem and making them realise that being a part of a solution is something good has been the absolute hardest part of launching the app.
Do you plan on expanding anywhere else in Europe?
We first launched in Stockholm, 2016, and quickly noticed that there was a huge need as well as a willingness by people to help to rescue food. The simple way to save food from landfill quickly grow organically across numerous towns and cities in Sweden. Following the success in Sweden, we launched in London earlier this year and our plans are to rescue food in other major European cities. Food waste is a global problem that needs a global solution!
What is your biggest advice to those looking to reduce food waste in their lives?
I feel that one of the most important things to remember is that small changes can make a big difference, and not be put off by the feeling that you have to do something major in order to make an impact. By being conscious and more aware, you can with simple steps start to do good things that benefit both the environment as well as your wallet.