Attention to reducing food waste at the household level is growing globally with an extensive body of research quantifying its impacts. Thirty three percent of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted around the world. In the United States, 30–40 percent of consumers’ food is wasted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The co-founders of YourLocal—Sebastian Dueholm, Kasper Nielsen, and Daniel Ratner—are working to scale up food waste reduction efforts in New York City and Copenhagen with an app-based marketplace connecting consumers to local food retailers selling surplus at a discount. In their model, consumers save money on local products while retailers turn potential waste into revenue and attract new customers. Both parties collaborate ensuring edible food stays out of the landfill.
Nielsen and Ratner tell Food Tank that YourLocal originated as a group text message between friends interested in reducing food waste in Copenhagen. “After sending a simple alert for surplus fish, the corresponding line wrapped around the fishmonger’s shop,” delighting the retailer with a final chance to profit on a highly perishable product that seemed destined for the garbage. “We are driven to create a thriving business and become a catalyst that empowers individuals to shift their perspective around surplus and food waste,” report Nielsen and Ratner. The app is live in Copenhagen, Denmark, and New York City, where users can receive up to a 70 percent discount in over 500 shops offering quality, prepared meals that must be sold quickly to preserve freshness.
In high-income countries, food is primarily wasted on the consumer side of the food chain. Poor marketing practices, consumer behavior, and consumption patterns influence how much food ends up in the garbage instead of on plates. In a study of marketing actions and food waste, consumers’ expectation that shelves and displays overflow with a variety of foods is cited as a main cause of waste, since not all displayed food is sold. To YourLocal, “wasting food is a crazy problem. You spend resources growing, producing, packaging, transporting, cooling the food—to then spend even more resources throwing it out, transporting it again, and composting it.” YourLocal therefore reframes potential “food waste” to “food surplus,” telling Food Tank they strive to highlight the “massive drain on our resources and effects [on] our environment and our wallets daily.” By providing food businesses with a final opportunity to sell potentially wasted products, this food surplus is transformed into accessible, affordable sustenance.
YourLocal is working to address the food waste problem from both the supply and demand side. They believe “it is critical to shift the perspective of what surplus food means to most people.” The YourLocal app aids this shift by providing a win-win for consumers and producers—and can be a win-win-win when considering the environmental impact of food waste. Benefits for app users include financial savings on food, alerts when and where deals are available, and convenience accessing these deals in the users’ local community. Vendors who specialize in fresh, daily-made products (especially perishables) no longer face the dilemma of wasted overproduction or wasted resources and disappointed customers with underproduction. YourLocal tells Food Tank that food retailers see 40 percent of their food go uneaten leading to US$25 billion lost annually in food waste—food that they have already paid to source, process, store, and have employees handle. YourLocal seeks “to rebuild our connection to the source [of food]” and change perceptions of food waste into food bounty.
Photo courtesy of YourLocal.