From the kitchen to the plate, entrepreneurs are increasingly keen to change the way we eat. 2015 has seen the rise of sourdough, more quirky cafes popping up and the opportunity to rent a chef to cook you dinner become commonplace. There are a wave of innovative start-ups in the space whose impact goes far beyond serving up novel snacks and filling stomachs with gourmet cuisine. Here are a few...
By the end of 2014, the UK's food and drink industry was worth £103 billion, creating scores of new jobs and introducing many new products into the market. There’s no doubt the UK likes to indulge, but a downside to this consumption habit is the waste produced.
Taking a bite out of the seven million tonnes thrown away annually is OLIO. The start-up launched a free smartphone app earlier this year, which allows people in London to get their hands on surplus food. Unlike similar apps which simply connect users to local businesses, it also connects users to fellow users. Its founders Tessa Cook and Saasha Celestial-One noticed that little was being done to actively promote a sharing economy for food waste and they wanted to fill the void.
The peer to peer app's success depends largely on building a sustainable online community. For the founders, this has meant being hands-on and drumming up as much interest as possible by speaking to members of the public.
"The biggest challenge for our mission is the shift required in consumer behaviour when it comes to binning edible food. It has become second nature for households to simply discard it," says Celestial-One. "This is where OLIO comes in. With the app, we’re giving people the opportunity to look again at that food and put it to good use. The early signs are that the appetite for the app is huge. We hope, in time, that OLIO becomes second nature instead."
Encouraging consumers to reduce their food waste is critical, yet while awareness is growing, they are often “lacking a platform to have a direct impact”, says Adriana Bałazy, co-founder of Food Heroes Ltd, adding that “in order to get at its [the issue’s] roots, you have to act locally”. The Swedish company is behind FoPo, which raised more than 219,00 SEK (£17,000) on Kickstarter back in May and is giving new life to fruits by transforming them into long-life powder [above] just before they expire.
Bałazy and her colleagues hope that their powdered food could help reduce hunger in humanitarian crises. The key to their product isn’t any wonder process, but a case of drying the fruit then pulverising it. She says that even though there isn’t a new method being employed, their understanding of science and technology is an advantage.
"Our own insights, taken from each country we’re from [including Poland and the Philippines], backgrounds, professional experiences and knowledge gained during our international masters [in food innovation and product design, and mechanical engineering and industrial design] all blended together at the right time. This gives us a competitive edge and fresh ideas as a tool to actively, boldly and, even rapidly, address the issue of wasting edible food... bringing it back to the system as nutrition for those in need."
Enrique Gonzalez, co-founder of EatLimmo, a start-up based in Monterrey, Mexico, agrees.
He graduated in economics and his business partner has expertise in waste management and biotechnology. They pooled this together and found a way to turn waste produce peels and seeds into an ingredient [right] that could be used by the baking industry to replace some eggs and fats.
Beyond the health benefits – a possible 40 per cent reduction in eggs and fats and a five per cent increase in fibre – their knowledge has resulted in an ingredient which doesn't affect the taste or texture of food. Gonzalez says that this is important, because consumers prefer products they are familiar with, and producers are unlikely to sell something that isn't popular.
Start-ups can often have it tough convincing big players to buy into them, but not so in this case. Why? According to Gonzalez, it’s "because not only are they saving costs (around eight to 12 per cent), but because they know it’s better for the consumer and are able to use more natural ingredients."
Bałazy says that it’s important to create accountability along the supply chain, especially if this means getting producers to change their production methods. Food waste isn't just a consumer issue; it’s one that can have an impact from the farm to the fork.
"“Farmers, groceries, restaurants and small companies creating growing amount of waste are all looking for a sustainable and economical way to address food waste. This missing part in the food system creates a place for start-ups and knowledgeable entrepreneurs."