Tesco Partners With OLIO In Big Scheme to Cut Food Waste

The OLIO app, showing a listing for food

An innovative scheme to stop more surplus food from going to waste, and re-distribute it amongst members of the local community will be rolled out across the UK by Tesco. 

The supermarket giant has partnered with food sharing app and social enterprise OLIO to help reduce food waste in stores across the UK, in a move which should help feed more people in crisis in the local community. 

The new partnership builds on Tesco’s existing food surplus donations programme, including their ‘Community Food Connection’ scheme with FareShare, which already sees them donate 2 million meals each month to food charities across the UK.

The partnership follows a successful six month trial, which was held earlier this year, at 250 Tesco stores with the most food surplus, which saw a high rate of pick up. It resulted in nearly 195,000 portions of food being saved, nearly 4,200 people being fed and the equivalent of 93,000 meals being saved.

Anyone downloading the app will be able to see food items nearing their expiry date, available to be collected in their area for free, via non-contact pick-up. The scheme works with the help of OLIO’s 8,000+ local volunteer ‘Food Waste Heroes’, who visit Tesco stores to collect the surplus food.

The food is then taken back to their homes, with the items immediately uploaded onto the OLIO app, ready to be re-distributed free to those living nearby, as well as to community groups. 

OLIO app users can then pick items up from an agreed, contact-free collection point and to maintain social-distancing, food items can be left in a front garden or on/by a wall outside someone’s house. 

“We are very proud of our food waste work and our Community Food Connection scheme with FareShare helps thousands of charities every week. Right now we want to make sure that any surplus food is being managed and people who need it have access to it.

The results of our initial trial were very positive and have allowed us to further roll out the partnership in our commitment to make sure no good food goes to waste.

Claire De Silva, Head of Communities at Tesco

In return for their efforts, ‘Food Waste Heroes’ are allowed to keep 10 percent of what they collect from stores, if they wish. OLIO is registered with the Food Standards Agency, which ensures that all food collected is safe for human consumption. 

The three-month trial which took place from December till the end of February resulted in 36 tonnes of food redistributed. 

“Our partnership with Tesco means that more people than ever before will be able to benefit from access to surplus food. They’ll also be joining our community of neighbours who not only support one another, but who also believe that every little counts in the fight against food waste.” 

Tessa Clarke, Co-founder of OLIO

Tackling food waste has been a major part of Tesco’s sustainability strategy since 2009, when it made a commitment to stop sending food products to landfill. 

In 2016, Tesco launched the UK’s biggest food redistribution scheme, Community Food Connection (CFC), through which surplus food from Tesco stores is donated daily to local charities and community groups.  

OLIO will collect where charities are unable to, or where there aren’t charities available. To date around 100 million meals have been donated to more than 7,000 charity and community groups from Tesco stores and distribution centres. 

OLIO is simple to use:

To share, users simply snap a picture of their items and add them to OLIO. Neighbours then receive customised alerts and can request anything that takes their fancy. Pickup is arranged via private messaging, within the app, and often takes place the same day. Fifty per cent of all food listings added to the app are requested in less than 1 hour! 

Eighty percent of listings are food, however, OLIO also has a non-food section, where items such as toiletries, cosmetics, kitchen equipment, books, toys and clothes are also shared. All listings added to OLIO are given away for free.

So how did OLIO come about, and who’s behind it?

Tessa and Saasha, founders of OLIO

Co-Founder and CEO, Tessa Clarke grew up on her parents’ dairy farm in North Yorkshire, England. She quickly learned just how much hard work goes into producing the food that we all eat. She grew up with the firm belief that food is meant to be eaten, not thrown away.

The ‘lightbulb’ moment for OLIO came on 17th December 2014 when she was packing up her apartment in Switzerland, getting ready to move back to the UK, and despite her best efforts to eat everything they had, she was still left with 6 sweet potatoes, a whole white cabbage and some pots of yogurt. 

The removal men said that all of the food had to be thrown away, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it so she set off to find someone to give it to. She thought, ‘why isn’t there an app where I can share it with someone nearby who wants it?’

In February 2015, Tessa told her best friend, Saasha and her eyes lit up immediately.

Saasha Celestial-One is the daughter of Iowa hippy entrepreneurs and spent much of her childhood accompanying her Mum on various missions to rescue things that others had discarded, such as: wooden fixtures from foreclosed houses, plants from the greenhouse dumpster, and aluminium soda cans (worth 5¢ each) casually tossed aside at the beach.

She quickly learned that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’ 

“A third of the food we produce globally is thrown away, and in the UK households are responsible for over half of all food waste. The average family throws away £700 worth of food each year. That adds up to £12.5 billion that is going straight to landfill!

Saasha Celestial-One, Co-founder of OLIO

So, with the support of their first investor, Simpleweb (a development agency), they built the app and worked like crazy. Exactly 5 months after they’d incorporated the company, they launched the app in the App Store on the 9th of July 2015, quickly followed by Google Play 3 weeks later. 

So far, 2.3 million people have joined OLIO and have shared 6.7 million portions of food. This has had an environmental impact equivalent to taking 20 million car miles off the road and saved over 1 billion litres of water.

Food has been successfully shared in 54 countries and 25% of all sharing that takes place via the app each week is taking place outside of the UK.

Some interesting food wastage stats:

  • The annual value of food wasted globally is $1 trillion, and it weighs 1.3 billion tonnes.
  • All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.
  • An area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • Reducing food waste is the #1 solution to the climate crisis, according to Project DrawDown – coming above electric cars, solar power and plant-based diets.
  • 2.3 billion people are joining the planet by 2050 – this will require a 60-70% increase in global food production. Or we can just stop throwing away our food! 

OLIO is available as a mobile app (iOS and Android) and a web app on www.olioex.com.