Mimica’s Food System Vision for Hackney
Radically reducing food waste & improving inclusive access to fresh nutritious food by integrating a new food freshness information system.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Mimica Lab Ltd
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (under 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
We will be collaborating with a variety of stakeholders to develop and implement our Vision. Stakeholders include local governments, NGOs, businesses and universities (where our lab teams are based). Stakeholders include: Hackney Council, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Hackney Foodbank, Hackney Food Partnership, Hackney Food Poverty Alliance (HFPA) and University of Chester.
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
London Borough of Hackney
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
London Borough of Hackney
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
The London Borough of Hackney remains the second most deprived local authority in England (LB Hackney Policy Team, 2013), with food poverty a major issue. We have focused our Vision on Hackney due to Mimica’s strong personal connections and Hackney’s need for change. In developed countries food waste is most prevalent in the consumption phase, and the London borough of Hackney is no exemption to this. Mimica’s Head Office is in Hackney and we aspire to be able to give back to our community. Hackney is not the only place struggling with food poverty and waste and it is just the start of our Vision journey. We strive for systemic change across the UK and the world.
Laurence Kayson (Mimica CEO) has a strong connection with Hackney and its people. He was born in Hackney and has lived and worked there throughout his life. His parents and extended family were born and lived in Hackney. Three of his grandparents were refugees around the turn of the 19th century, welcomed into the diverse community and felt proud to be a part of it. In addition, many other Mimica employees also have personal connections to Hackney and we all feel strongly about giving back to the community we are a part of.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
(Please refer to area outlined in red)
(Please refer to area outlined in red)
The London Borough of Hackney is located in Inner London, United Kingdom. It is one of the 32 Greater London Boroughs and 12 Inner London Boroughs. It is an urban area with sub-districts mainly consisting of Victorian terraced buildings and housing estates, with a mosaic of listed buildings and conservation areas, such as Clapton Square, dotted throughout. Hackney covers an area of 19.06 square kilometres with a population of approximately 280,000 people. With the obvious exception of the urbanisation of the area, the greatest changes to the topography and landscape have been to the waterways and wetlands of the area, with the River Lea being Hackney’s primary geographic feature. Hackney is a relatively young borough with 25% of its population under 20 and a further 23% aged between 20-29 (Hackney Policy Team, 2013) with predictions of these percentages increasing by 2050. The population is ethnically diverse and Hackney is a truly rich multicultural place and the sixth most diverse Borough in London (Hackney.gov.uk, 2019).
Hackney is an area of thriving economic opportunity, mainly as it contains Shoreditch, the largest startup hub in London. Despite this, this growth has created gentrification causing significant deprivation for its citizens disproportionately affected by health, access to services, living environment and income.
Access to healthy food choices is a major challenge for Hackney citizens due to prevalent food poverty. The fast-paced London city life has created a dependence on pre-packaged convenience foods, choosing cheaper, easier options. Hackney Food Poverty Chief, Chris Kennedy, said “In the sixth richest country in the world, benefit cuts, a broken housing market, and rising in-work poverty means eight million people have trouble putting food on the table. The Hackney Foodbank is now desperately running low as there is a huge spike in demand.”
Hackney has a large support network for its people, including a Borough Council and food poverty and visual impairment charities. Our Vision will utilise this interconnected network to develop and grow our Vision.
Please view the video of our Founder talking about our Vision, which was filmed at our Hackney Head Office in London.
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Hackney's food system needs addressing to manage predicted future food system challenges. Hackney's population is estimated to increase by 21% from 2013-2031 (Hackney Council, 2013); this increases food demand, consumption and waste. Hackney’s economy in 2050 is likely to become increasingly polarised as the area becomes evermore gentrified and changes to the welfare system contribute to widening inequalities and food poverty. This has consequences for the quality of people’s diets and subsequently their health and wellbeing. Zooming out from Hackney, these systemic issues are seen globally.
Simultaneously, currently 1/3 of food produced is wasted, costing the global economy $1.2 Trillion annually (FAO, 2015); if food waste were a country it would be the third largest contributor to climate change. A major issue is confusing and over-cautious expiry dates which lead to edible food being thrown away. Food waste at European supermarkets can be as high as 15% (tandfonline.com), with 80% attributed to the current expiry date system. Hackney families are each wasting £700 of food a year and with our current expiry date system food waste will only increase. Updating the expiry date system has been identified as one of the most impactful methods of cutting avoidable food waste (WRAP). Despite the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 addressing food waste, the UK does not have its own Food Waste Target for 2050.
It is ironic that the issues of food waste and food poverty coexist. When so many local people go without or rely on food banks, it is morally wrong that on the same streets such vast amounts of food are wasted.
Let’s consider three Hackney families who are impacted by the current food system. The first family (Clarks) is a low income family relying on Hackney's food banks. In food banks, most food donated are longer-life, over processed, canned foods, which are relatively less nutritious. Any fresh food donated is close to the expiry date and must be disposed of on the date stated, despite most of it being good for consumption.
The second family, (Jamesons) is one of many “JAM” (Just About Managing) families and are just above the threshold for getting food bank help. They are less likely to select nutritious fresh foods with shorter expiry dates in case they go to waste. Therefore they rely on heavily processed foods, with negative health impacts.
The final family (Ms Smith) is a visually impared woman living alone, with a carer that visits. The carer adheres strictly to the expiry dates and bins food which is safe to consume. Ms Smith ends up wasting her limited welfare money.
Culturally, food education has declined rapidly in the past several decades, due to a disconnection between people living in cities and where their food is produced. This systematic ignorance creates "blind faith" in inaccurate expiry dates, resulting in families wasting food they certainly cannot afford to or to choose longer-life processed foods lacking nutrition.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Our Vision is a new generation of accurate tactile food spoilage information which promotes food education and is inclusive to all, including the partially sighted, starting in Hackney. Using our Mimica Touch (MT) technology will allow residents to discover the true longevity of food and use it for longer, safely. It will tackle the issues of food waste, food poverty and marginalisation of the partially sighted in the area. This will require a collaboration of technology, government and businesses.
The Vision will empower Hackney residents to make fresher, healthier food choices through an expiry date system that educates, not confuses. Challenging and changing this outdated systemic issue cannot be achieved through technology alone, therefore we will collaborate with key stakeholders to integrate and implement our Vision into Hackney. We will work closely with Hackney Council to integrate a new spoilage indication system into local businesses and food banks and gain social acceptance of our new solution through community engagement. In order to directly address the food poverty and food waste challenges we will work with Hackney Foodbank, Hackney Food Partnership and Hackney Food Poverty Alliance (HFPA).
We will also partner with NGOs, such as London-based Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), to ensure the partially sighted community can take full advantage of our new tactile system, Mimica Touch. They have existing facilitators within the community and the right expertise on organising and delivering specialist workshops and support, giving partially sighted residents the confidence to make their own fresher, healthier food choices.
Our collaboration with Hackney Council, Hackney food NGOs and RNIB will benefit our three family scenarios, see our High Level Vision and Full Vision on this.
Most importantly, we will work with Hackney residents to co-design a Vision that serves their current and future needs and wants. The aim of our Vision is to empower and educate so by 2050 the issues of food waste and hunger cancel each other out.
With a growing population creating more food demands, we’re committed to prioritising the reduction of waste first, before growing more food. Globally, we are already growing enough food to feed 10 billion people (the predicted population for 2050), but wasting 1/3 of it. With limited resources with which to expand agriculture, we must look to technology to make more efficient use of what we have available. A large challenge and issue with the current food system is expiry dates, which are overcautious and confusing for users. Our Vision will revise the current expiry dating system through technology. This will be supported by food education to improve people's relationships with their food. Through these systemic changes, food waste and food poverty will be reduced significantly by 2050.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
Introducing and integrating a more accurate and inclusive expiry date system allowing fresh foods to be used for longer will drive our Vision for Hackney in 2050 - an inclusive, healthy, sustainable local food system which mitigates food waste, food poverty and marginalisation. By 2050, this case study will have provided a blueprint for successfully integrating MT into communities globally. Fundamentally, our Vision is rooted in democratic access to scientifically accurate food freshness information which educates and empowers.
In 2050 Hackney food businesses and supermarkets are using MT on their food packaging so when surplus occurs, Hackney Foodbank distributes fresh food safely. For the Clarks, who rely on food banks, the food available is fresher and more nutritious.
The commercial partnerships have also benefited the Jamesons, our JAM family, who have a greater understanding of food spoilage and the true longevity of fresh foods. They now purchase fresher, more nutritious foods with confidence, knowing that they won’t be wasted.
Our work with the RNIB has created greater independence for partially sighted local residents. Ms Smith now manages her kitchen inventory independently, allowing her to use her carer’s time for more useful tasks.
The local economy has improved, as reduced waste in local shops has improved profitability, and a move to more nutritious diets has reduced the strain on the local healthcare system. Food waste has been halved as most foods are being used for 2-3 days longer than in 2020.
The Vision will provide a transparent conversation between Hackney Council and its people, with the shared goal of reducing food waste and making healthier dietary choices. Organisations such as schools, caterers, hospitals have been inspired to take action to create a positive, sustainable food culture for Hackney.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Mimica is an award-winning design-led UK company with a mission to radically reduce unnecessary food waste and food poverty caused and worsened by overcautious expiry dates. Our first product Mimica Touch (MT) is a biologically active label or cap that turns bumpy when food or drinks spoil, based on actual temperature conditions. Using MT enables us to understand the true longevity and one can consume it for longer, safely. We are the leaders of this Vision and will partner with local government, businesses and NGOs to fulfil it. With our team which has combined 50+ years of experience in the food industry and waste reduction, we are ready to deploy this Vision, following 3 years of lab and user research to develop MT.
Our Vision will address the current and predicted future challenges in the outdated food system to construct an inclusive, healthy, sustainable food system. Our Vision is for more accurate and inclusive freshness indication and better food education. We need to action our Vision now to address the food system challenges, which only worsen if we do not. Our Vision delivers economic impact by improving value for consumers and retailers and reducing waste. It helps reduce the food system's carbon footprint while improving the availability of healthy food to people experiencing food poverty and visual impairments. Hackney is just the start of our Vision journey. We strive for systemic change across the UK and the world.
Hackney is the second most deprived local authority in England (Hackney Policy Team, 2013), with food poverty a major issue. We have focused our Vision on Hackney due to Mimica’s strong personal connections and Hackney’s need for change. Mimica’s Head Office is in Hackney and we would like to be able to give back to our community. Hackney’s increasing population puts a strain on food demand and impacts food waste, thus an intervention of the current food system is required to supply this demand. Hackney is a relatively young borough with 25% of its population under 20 and a further 23% aged between 20-29 (Hackney Policy Team, 2013) with predictions of these percentages increasing by 2050; their future demands systemic change.
The two main coexisting challenges (and therefore biggest Vision drivers) of the food system are food waste and food poverty. In developed countries food waste is most prevalent in the consumption phase, and Hackney is no exception. Over 1.3 billion mt of food is wasted globally every year (WHO), 88 million mt in the EU alone (EU Fusions report, 2016). Waste along the supply chain, including grocery retailers and domestic consumption, is a large economic burden for producers and retailers. Despite the UN SDG target 12.3 aiming to halve per capita global food waste and reduce food losses, the UK currently does not have a mandatory food waste reduction target (House of Commons, 2016). This means we need to take innovation for change into our own hands.
The other key challenge, food poverty, means many people have to buy over-processed longer-life foods, which are high in empty calories, due to them being shelf stable and less likely to be wasted.
These challenges are heightened due to a lack of food education. Food education has declined in the past several decades, due to a disconnection between people living in cities to where their food is produced. This ignorance creates “blind faith” in expiry dates, forcing families to waste food they cannot afford to or to choose longer-life processed foods with less nutrition.
Large amounts of food waste are due to printed over-cautious static expiry dates introduced in the 1970s. These dates indicate product life based on worst-case scenario temperatures. However, food is typically transported and stored in conditions far better than this, and these conservative dates therefore generate food waste when items are discarded while, in 60% of cases are still edible (WRAP, 2015). They are also problematic for the blind community and force visually impared people to either waste a large proportion of the food they buy or choose longer-life, and therefore less risky foods of less nutritional value.
Our Vision will address these issues through technology, collaboration and education. Our Vision utilises our inexpensive tactile MT technology to reduce food waste and help people purchase fresher, more nutritious foods confidently. MT is achievable because the current system is restricted and outdated. MT is a game-changing invention with the potential to profitably reduce food waste at a global scale. MT contains a vegan gel that mimics the condition of the food inside the package, with binary indicators (smooth label - food is still fresh, bumpy label - food is not safe for consumption). This time and temperature response can be calibrated to different food types to suit food suppliers' requirements, and by 2050 will be on most foods in the supermarket. By showing exactly when food spoils, MT benefits local businesses and the economy by allowing shelf life to be extended safety, producing significant returns as every $1 invested in food waste reduction returns $7 for businesses (Champions 12.3, 2019). With Mimica’s offices also based in Hackney, the Vision will see company growth, providing employment opportunities to people living in Hackney.
Hackney will be more connected, through diverse local, independent food shops and consumers all collaborating. Our Vision aims to ignite a movement through adequate food education. We will work closely with Hackney Council and food poverty NGOs such as Hackney Foodbank, Hackney Food Partnership and HFPA to organise workshops and provide education on how to make sustainable, healthy food choices.
The current expiry date system is not suitable for the visually impaired. Therefore, having MT on perishable, fresh food products makes it easier to make healthier choices, and stay independent for longer as they can manage their fridge inventory without assistance. 14.5% of Hackney residents said they were disabled or had a long-term limiting illness (Hackney Policy Team, 2013), which may mean they have difficulty accessing healthy foods. Visually impaired people have expressed how they face challenges with the current arbitrary shelf expiry dates, therefore our Vision will provide an inclusive binary (bumpy/smooth) indication on the freshness of foods. In addition, we plan to work with Hackney community charities, including RNIB for the partially sighted.
In order to illustrate our Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future, we would like to bring you back to our three families.
Our collaborative work with Hackney food poverty NGOs will improve the Clarks access to healthier, fresher choices due to food banks being able to supply fresher food options. The Jamesons and other JAM families, impacted by the current and growing challenge of Hackney’s rising living costs, and just above the threshold to get help from food banks will be able to access fresher food options with confidence. We will work with big retailers and the smaller local retailers, to support the local economy.
We will also work closely with RNIB and their network of 600 volunteers to teach the visually impaired community to use our new MT system and be more independent. In 2050, Ms Smith now has the confidence to purchase her own food, which is fresher and less likely to be wasted as she is able to detect if her food is safe for consumption without the assistance of her carer.
By 2050 MT will be available on all perishable products in the supermarket, putting accurate spoilage information into the community’s hands, allowing them to not waste perfectly edible foods and gain a better understanding of how long foods last. On the retail level, extending shelf life by 2 days would cut in-store waste in half and increase sales by 10% because people buy more when they can see that foods will last longer. It will allow local retailers to use the ‘expected date’ of products, rather than continuing to use the wasteful worst case scenario dates, improving their bottom lines. This leads to a significant reduction in food waste, while reducing the food system’s carbon footprint.
Reducing food waste will have a positive impact on the global climate. Addressing food waste at the consumer level will reduce its carbon footprint, approximately a fifth of the average personal carbon footprint coming from the food we eat (University of Oxford, 2018). Hackney would become a healthier, more sustainable London borough.
Through systemic change we envisage a healthier, more sustainable and environmentally friendly food system that will benefit all stakeholders, regardless of background and ability. Through Mimicas partnering with Hackney Council, local NGOs and businesses, accessible information workshops will educate the public on making healthier, nutritious choices and food storage, and unite the area through collaboration. Hackney’s food waste and food poverty concerns will be addressed through our biotechnology. People will have access to healthier food choices by purchasing fresher, more nutritious foods with confidence, as we demonstrate how much longer foods really last and reassure people that it's much less likely that they will end up wasted. In 2050, cautious expiry dates will be a distant memory that the Clarks, Jamesons and Smiths tell their grandchildren about.
In conclusion, we believe our Mimica Touch Vision can radically reduce food waste and improve inclusive access to fresh nutritious food for residents in the Borough of Hackney, London, through systematic collaborative change. Our experienced award-winning team and partners are poised to launch this Vision, with the support of the Food System Vision Prize.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?