Let Them Eat Cake! Fighting Food Waste, One Startup at a Time

This year, the Swedish e-commerce startup, Matsmart raised €7.5 million ( approximately $8.9 million) to expand their business across Europe. Matsmart operates on the idea that food fit for human consumption should be consumed and they ensure that it is by selling food goods, which would otherwise be thrown out at a 20-90% discount. Food fit for consumption, being consumed, sounds logical right? Well, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, almost half of all the world's food is thrown away, 2 billion tonnes of that food never even reaches our plates. This is an unfortunate paradox because on the other side of this statistic 793 million people worldwide go hungry.

The reason for food being wasted can range from expiration dates which don't accurately reflect how edible or "safe" food is to food being oddly-shaped, too big, too small or too "ugly" to sell. For instance, in the UK, up to 30% of vegetable crops aren't harvested due to their physical appearance. As of 2016, Matsmart has saved 708 tonnes of food from being wasted by selling it to customers, this is significant, even compared to the 1.3 million tonnes of food that is thrown away annually in Sweden alone. Matsmart sells surplus food that is thrown away because of changes in branding, packaging, seasonality or products with shorter shelf lives.

While no products marked with a "last consumption date" after the expected date of receipt by the customer are sold, customers may receive products marked with "best before" or "expiration dates" after the date of expected receipt. This is because best before dates serve as a recommendation by the manufacturer and the product maintains the same taste and quality as it would on a previous date. Expiration dates indicate that the food may not be fit for consumption. This label is used for sensitive products which spoil faster, like meats but does not mean that a product cannot be consumed. All of this information can be accessed by customers before completing their order in the event that they prefer not to have expired food or food that has passed its "best before" date.

Matsmart's contributions to eliminating food waste are also good news for consumers. Across the globe, 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted on crops that will never make it to our plates and that water use is multiplied when the production of animal products is considered. So far Matsmart, which has expanded to Finland and Norway has seen great success, with annual revenues reaching €20 million ($23.7 million approximately). That revenue is being reinvested into growth for international expansion. They currently deliver both to private individuals and companies, bringing goods directly to the door or service point of customers.

Matsmart is an online food retailer, on a mission to reduce food waste. By providing an alternative route to market for surplus food, we aim to revolutionize and challenge the perception and consumption of food.

Their website, which is an online market features products from multiple categories like spices, pantry, sauces and oils, beverages, candy, tea, coffee, disposables, laundry, dishes, pet supplies, laundry supplies and many more. They even have special discounts like their after Christmas sale. Their site looks like any other online grocery store and allows customers to browse products, review product information and then add items to the cart. Once items are in the cart, customers have a number of methods to pay, like debit or credit card, direct payment or with their Klarna (a Swedish bank) accounts.

Matsmart, who posts tips on how to avoid food waste and do better by the environment (sorry it's in Swedish, but there is Google translate) wants to go beyond selling consumers food to avoid waste and towards encouraging consumers to make better food choices. On their site, they encourage consumers to understand the "best before," "expiration" and "last consumption day" dates on their food so that they don't inadvertently toss food which can still be consumed. Reducing or avoiding waste is also suggested. Other advice encourages consumers to plan their purchases, store food appropriately, take advantage of the entire product and use leftovers before just tossing.

While governments and larger entities like the EU have committed to tackling food waste, it's obvious that this issue is multifaceted and requires the input and commitment of multiple parties. Consumers and companies are just some of those and Matsmart has found the pivotal balance between profit and making a difference. With such a successful start and a profitable year, they're worth keeping an eye on as they expand to other markets.

matsmart.se