Hunger. An issue deeply rooted in our modern world nowadays, affecting over 795 million people and claiming the lives of 3.1 million children each year. Still, with these shocking statistics, when it comes to food; it is safe to say that our planet has become wasteful.
Some companies, however, have aspired to make change when it comes to food waste. After publishing our “How Cities Are Finally Tackling Food Waste,” we investig-ate companies that are trying to make a difference when it comes to food waste.
When Tessa Cook was moving back to the UK after living overseas, she decided that instead of throwing food away, she would pack it up and give it to someone in need. But finding someone on the streets was not as easy as she thought it would be, and she ended up going back home with the food.
It was then that Cook decided to create an app to do just that; help you give away the food you don’t want or need to someone that does. The idea struck a chord with her friend Saasha Celestial-One, and together they developed OLIO: an application designed to allow people to share food they will not eat with their neighbors for at least a 50% discount.
With no time to waste, the company was founded in February 2015 and market research followed.
“In April we conducted a ‘proof of concept’ trial using a closed Whatsapp group where we asked our trialists to share surplus food with the group for two weeks; and in July we launched the app in North London,” Cook says.
The application became an instant success, and around six month later it went nationwide.
“We have had over 75,000 people download the app, and approximately 80% of those go on to sign-up with OLIO,” she says, highlighting that “over 100,000 items of food have been shared via the app, in a little over eight months.”
“Our vision is that millions of items of food will be shared via OLIO in a couple of years’ time,” she adds.
The company has around 100 drop box locations listed, and according to Cook, that figure is “growing every week.” Cook said that the drop box are located in different cities, including: London, Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle, Cardiff, and York.
The company has set a number of rules for food placed in drop boxes that users must follow. The guidelines include not putting food that would not measure up to the user’s own quality standards. The rules also entail that users describe each item thoroughly, responding promptly to messages and showing up to give or receive the items on time.
“Our drop box guidelines are in place to ensure that food sharing takes place safely and legally via our drop boxes. And so for example, we can’t allow people to share chilled items via drop boxes, as they aren’t refrigerated,” explains Cook.
When asked whether or not the company received any complaints regarding the food quality, Cook said: “Thankfully we have not yet had any complaints from our users about the quality of food that is shared via OLIO, and we have had over 100,000 items of food shared.” She believes that the lack of complaints is due to the “incredibly strong community” OLIO users have.
“Plus if someone has posted an item that isn’t appealing, then it doesn’t get requested! We also [allow] users to report any item to us, and shortly we will be introducing a user ratings feature,” she adds.
Achieving this success was not a walk in the park, however. Starting a business with no funding and piling bills to pay, the founders gave themselves a year to make OLIO work, and as Cook puts it: “ the clock was ticking was from day one!”
“Throw in the fact that I was juggling moving country and house, had a toddler and a new-born baby, a hyperactive puppy and was working flat out to get OLIO off the ground, and that should paint the picture,” Cook says.
The company is still not generating revenue, but it is looking into launching a “small” platform commission that has a price or a donation amount later this year.
“We will always allow people to share food for free if they wish,” Cook says.