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Using mobile technology to reduce food waste, reduce food poverty, and reduce demands on our finite natural resources

A free app connecting people to share surplus food rather than throw it away, thereby decreasing demand for 'virgin' food production

Photo of Tessa Cook
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Explain your idea

OLIO is a free app tackling the problem of good food being thrown away. Globally over 1/3 of all the food we produce is wasted, which is worth $1 trillion; and over $100bn of this takes place in the home with the average US family for example throwing away £2,275 of food each year that could've been eaten. OLIO solves this problem by connecting people with their neighbours and with local shops & cafes so that surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. Users simply snap a picture of their items and add them to the app. Neighbours then receive customised alerts and can request anything that takes their fancy. Pick-up takes place - often the same day - at the home, store, an OLIO Drop Box, or another agreed location. Items typically found on the app include food nearing its use-by date from shops, cafes and markets; spare vegetables from the allotment; cakes from an amateur baker; or groceries from household fridges when people go away, move home or start a diet. All the food on OLIO is either available for free, or for a ‘pay as you feel’ donation to charity. Once operating at scale, OLIO will make a huge contribution to solving the global food crisis that faces us. The FAO has projected that we need to increase global food production by 60-70% by 2050 in order to feed the nearly 10 billion people who will be living on the planet by then. And they have warned that if we fail to achieve this then we face mass civil unrest, political turmoil and population displacement. Furthermore, food waste is the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China and so is hugely detrimental to the welfare of the environment. Therefore OLIO's vision of a world where our surplus food is SHARED and eaten, not thrown away is essential to protect the future of our people and planet. You can read more at, follow us on Twitter (@OLIO_ex) or on Facebook (/olioex)

Who Benefits?

• The adder – avoids the unpleasantness of throwing away good food; ‘feels good’ sharing food with someone who wants/needs it; has fun meeting a neighbour; can raise money for charity • The requester – gets delicious food for free; ‘feels good’ saving something of value from going to waste; has fun meeting a neighbour; can significantly improve their budget (1/3 of requesters are living in household poverty), and in some instances can eat that day instead of going hungry • The planet – for every item shared we've saved all the land, labour, water, energy, packaging and distribution that went into producing that food. We also prevent it from ending up in landfill (when food decomposes without access to oxygen it creates methane which is 23x more deadly than CO2). • The local environment/community where the food was produced – local land can be used to feed indigenous populations & support the local economy rather than grown for export and ultimately wasted.

How is your idea unique?

OLIO has no direct competitor anywhere in the world – there is no other mobile app that connects neighbours with each other & with local shops and cafes to share surplus food! In fact, we often say that our biggest competitor is the garbage can because globally households & local communities throw away over $100bn of food that could have been eaten each year. And we compete with the bin and existing habits by presenting an alternative that is easy, convenient, and most importantly extremely sociable and fun! We therefore have an enormous first mover advantage and this has been reflected in how quickly we’ve managed to grow – in a little over 18 months we have acquired over 165k users (15% of which are from outside the UK) and 10k volunteers all on a minimal budget. And as we continue to expand our brand, community and passionate volunteers are our secret sauce that will enable us to always stay one step ahead of the competition!

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

OLIO is a pre-revenue for profit social enterprise. We are based in the UK (London), but have made our platform available across the world and so have seen food sharing springing up in a number of other countries including the USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland and South Africa! We’re lead by two Co-Founders – Tessa Cook & Saasha Celestial-One – who met whilst studying their MBAs at Stanford Business School almost 15 years ago. And we have a team of 7 other superstars who design, develop & maintain the app, do all our marketing, and manage our community outreach and business development efforts. We're actively looking for additional funding to enable us to continue to fulfil our mission of “unlocking the value of food that is wasted in the home and local community” and to achieve our ambition of hundreds of millions of people all round the world using OLIO to ensure that our most precious resources are shared, not thrown away. We're also looking for partners to collaborate with to either help spread the word about OLIO and/or enable their business to become zero food waste through our “Food Waste Heroes” programme whereby we match volunteers with businesses to collect their unsold food at the end of the day and redistribute it to the local community via the app. And for University partners who may want to work on the impact measurement side of our business and/or machine learning. And finally, we're also keen to expand our international footprint in the USA & Sweden (our current areas of focus) and in other progressive markets.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Joseph Hong

Just to be devil's advocate -- what is the direct connection or correlation between this app and international peace/conflict mitigation?

Photo of Tessa Cook

In a couple of ways....... 1) because food waste is the 3rd largest source of greenhouse gas emissions/contributor to climate change; and the negative impact of climate change is contributing to civil unrest/wars, and will continue to do so as we compete for scarce precious resources. OLIO directly addresses this because it is reducing the amount of food being thrown away. 2) Because we need to increase global food production by 60-70% in order to feed the global population with its additional 2.3 billion citizens by 2050, and the FAO has warned that if we don't figure out how to do this then it will lead to mass population displacement, civil unrest etc. Again, OLIO is directly helping to remedy this by decreasing food waste and therefore helping to address some of this growing pressure to be able to feed everybody.

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