This wonderful innovation is the brainchild of Tessa Clarke who is one of the co-founders of OLIO. Tessa had an epiphany on December 17, 2014 while packing up her apartment in Switzerland, getting ready to move back to the UK. Despite her family’s best efforts to eat everything they had, they were still left with 6 sweet potatoes, a whole white cabbage and some pots of yogurt. The removal men told her that all the food had to be thrown away, which she could not bring herself to do. Tessa got her new-born baby and toddler dressed and set off intentionally to find someone in need to give the food.
Unfortunately, the lady to whom she had hoped to give the food was not in her usual spot outside the supermarket, which added to Tessa’s frustration. To that end, Tessa thought about knocking on her neighbors’ doors to see if they wanted the food, but she had no idea if they were home and how they would react. She also thought it might be a bit awkward if they did not want what she was offering. Feeling completely defeated, Tessa thought to herself “This is absolutely crazy…. this food is delicious. Why isn’t there an app where I can share it with someone nearby who wants it?” From this thought, the idea for OLIO began to germinate!
However, when Tessa excitedly shared her idea of a food sharing app with some of her friends and family, they all thought she was crazy. Perhaps, it was providential that Tessa ran into her close friend Saasha in February 2015. When Tessa shared her idea with Saasha, it became clear that they both needed to collaborate to bring this app to life! For both of them, the idea of having to throw away food because there is no alternative and no innovation since the rubbish bin was just crazy!
St. John's University
The company was incorporated on February 9, 2015. The co-founders then decided they would give themselves a year to prove it and make it happen, and if not, they would go back to their regular modes of employment. The first thing they did was to conduct some market research using Survey Monkey to better understand the extent of food waste in the UK. What they discovered not only shocked and terrified them but further spurred them into action, resulting in this novel and sustainable innovation known as the OLIO App.
It is super easy to make an item available on OLIO. Simply open the app, add a photo, description, and specify when and where the item is available for pick-up. To access items, simply browse the listings available near you, request whatever you are interested in, and arrange a pick-up via private messaging.
Food Going to Waste
Over 1/3 of all food produced globally goes to waste!
The inspiration, as mentioned above, came from Tessa’s experience that caused her to join forces with her friend Saasha. Together both, as co-founders, are united in their quest to eliminate food waste. Their vision is to have millions of hyperlocal food sharing networks all around the world. They believe OLIO can help create a world in which nothing of value goes to waste, and every single person has enough to eat – without destroying our planet in the process.
They are driven by the statistical facts that somewhere between 33-50% of all food produced globally is never eaten, and that the value of this wasted food is over $1 trillion. To put this in perspective, in the USA, food waste represents 1.3% of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). OLIO sees food waste as a massive market inefficiency, the kind which does not exist in other industries. Thus, the inspirational goal of OLIO is to reduce food waste to zero.
Throwing away food in the future will be a taboo!
Although OLIO has only just begun, the company has accomplished a lot. It is a collaborative effort to end food waste globally! The statistics on its website are remarkable.
Worth mentioning is OLIO’s worldwide impact. OLIO has received several awards and nominations in the UK. Most recently in 2018 OLIO received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award under the category of Women for Results.
With the support of their first investor, Simpleweb, a development agency, OLIO was able to build their first MVP (minimal viable product) version of the app. So far, the business has one million users. The innovation is scalable, and the goal is one billion users in the next few years. The co-founders worked fervently for 5 months after incorporation and successfully launched the app in the App Store on July 9, 2015 and Google Play three weeks later. The very first version of the app was extremely basic and could only be used in five postcodes in North London. OLIO has since grown its innovation and human capital and is bringing food sharing to the world one person at a time! Today, the team has expanded to 21 employees and is growing. They have partnered with over 30 organizations to help reduce food waste. The business is receiving significant traction from its podcasts, which are inspirational, educational and a must watch: http://podcast.tech-talks.co.uk/tech-personality-of-the-year.
Excerpts from my Q & A with Delia Gadea speak volumes to about business benefit of OLIO.
Q. What is the short-term impact of OLIO on the world?
A. OLIO brings communities together and celebrates food sharing.
Q. What is the long-term impact of OLIO on the world?
A. OLIO will eliminate food waste in the home and the local community.
Q. What concrete evidence suggests that this impact has occurred?
A. OLIO has already saved well over a million portions of food from going to waste.
Benefit to Society
I could hear the passion in Delia’s voice when she spoke to the social impact of food waste on society. In her words “we believe it is morally wrong to waste good food.” Meanwhile, it is reported that 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. That is said one in nine people on the planet who are starving or malnourished. Each and every one of these individuals could be sufficiently fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the USA, UK, and Europe each year. To this end, OLIO has a globalized food supply system and is committed to ending food waste for the betterment of society at large. The company sees hunger as not just a problem that is happening ‘somewhere else’ but right in “our neighborhood.” In fact, they report that in the UK, over one million people accessed a food bank last year, whilst in the USA forty million Americans live in food poverty.
Some of the great stories of the social benefit of OLIO can be viewed at https://olioex.com/news/
Benefit to the Environment
For us to really appreciate the environmental benefit of OLIO’s innovation, we must first understand the impact of food waste on the environment. It cannot be overemphasized how bad food waste is for the environment. It requires a land mass larger than China to grow the food each year that is ultimately never eaten. That means land that has been deforested, species that have been driven to extinction, indigenous populations that have been moved, soil that has been degraded – all to produce food that we then just throw away.
When I asked Delia to describe how OLIO would like to be perceived by the world, she responded, “we are where you want us to be regardless how far away you are.” These words resonated with me because it speaks to the accessibility of bringing people and food together for the global good with just one click. Armed with this information as educated consumers, we can now choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution! What is your choice? We encourage you to do your part and sign up now at https://web.olioex.com/ to become part of the global solution .
Delia Gadea, Food Waste Heroes Programme Account Manager
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London, London, GB
Business Website: www.olioex.com
Year Founded: 2015
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One are the Co-Founders of OLIO. The Mission of OLIO is to connect neighbors with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This can be considered food sharing at its best! Anything from food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, to spare home-grown vegetables, to bread from your baker, to the groceries in your refrigerator when you go away can be shared through the app. OLIO is not limited to food items, but can also be used for non-food household items.
At OLIO every member on the team is passionate about fighting food waste. They believe that “small actions can lead to big change.” One rescued cupcake, carrot or bottle of lotion at a time, is the mantra which drives the OLIO team in their quest to build a more sustainable future where our most precious resources are shared, not thrown away.
OLIO is all about food. Other people’s food, to be precise. The app aims to connect neighbors, as well as local businesses, so that food does not get thrown away unnecessarily. In the UK alone, households generate around 7.1 million tons of food waste each year, while 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. That translates to 1 in 9 people on the planet who are starving or malnourished. OLIO believes that each and every one of these households could be sufficiently fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the USA, UK, and Europe each year. The impact of OLIO is indeed an ambition with major environmental, as well as economic ripples.