Waste not

by Monica Watrous
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Wasteless enables shoppers to pay less for a food product nearing its expiration date.
 
NEW YORK — A “win-win-win” may aptly describe Wasteless, a new technology platform developed to reduce food waste and recapture $1 billion of lost grocery store revenues each week. Wasteless enables shoppers to pay less for a food product nearing its expiration date, said Tomas Pasqualini, business development director. The concept was one of several innovative approaches to food waste presented at the Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 25-27 in New York.

To date, Tel Aviv-based Wasteless has raised $560,000 in three rounds of funding. The start-up also was selected for Food-X, a food business accelerator. The platform automates pricing processes and monitors stock levels by using intelligent bar codes and digital shelf tags. Products may be priced based on freshness, so the closer an item is to its expiration date, the cheaper it may be.

Tomas Pasqualini, business development director for Wasteless

“When we look at other industries and see how they price their products, we often see the use of dynamic pricing,” Pasqualini said. “Why aren’t groceries following the same model?”

Although recent studies suggest food waste in America may be overstated, the issue lately has inspired innovative solutions across the industry for reducing its impact. Several emerging brands use imperfect fruits and vegetables to make potato chips, cold-pressed juices and more. Many restaurant chefs are finding appealing new uses for food scraps.

Josh Treuhaft is the founder and creative director of Salvage Supperclub, which hosts dinner parties inside a retrofitted dumpster. Each course features ingredients that may have otherwise been trashed, including bruised apples, broccoli stalks, overripe bananas and day-old bread. The concept began in Brooklyn and has since popped up in other cities across the country.

 
Salvage Supperclub hosts dinner parties inside a retrofitted dumpster.
 
“Our goal is about inspiring or empowering anyone who touches the food system in some way, whether it’s a manufacturer or a restaurant chef, to make the most of the edible food in their lives,” Treuhaft said during the presentation.

“The fact is we waste a ton of edible food in this country … 60 million tons, 400 lbs. per person per year … that’s like throwing your dinner in the trashcan every day of the year.

Josh Treuhaft, founder and creative director of Salvage Supperclub

“I think that’s staggering, particularly in light of the fact that we have 78 billion people in our country who are food insecure.”

A recent Salvage Supperclub dinner featured “fresh butter whipped with an end-of-the-day office coffee reduction. Served on freshly baked bread with yesterday’s rice.”

“We’re all working on something together, slowly growing over time, changing attitudes, changing mindsets, getting people to think about how we can use our food in a different way than we are today,” Treuhaft said.

Another promising solution is CommonScraps, which founder Will Horowitz described as a Craigslist for food waste.

Will Horowitz, founder of CommonScraps and exectuive chef and owner of Ducks Eatery and Harrry & Ida's Meat and Supply Co.

“CommonScraps is the first free on-line marketplace for food waste,” said Horowitz, executive chef and owner of Ducks Eatery and Harry & Ida’s Meat and Supply Co. in New York. The project is designed to “empower people with skillsets to turn food waste into opportunities.”

At his restaurants, Horowitz uses traditional techniques such as fermentation and charcuterie to add value to would-be food waste.

“Our belief is that everything we’re looking for in sustainability and new products and opportunities are all things we can find guidance in studying our past,” he said. “Waste is a modern invention.”

Food waste has long been a concern for the Specialty Food Association, which produces the Fancy Food Shows. The organization partners with City Harvest in New York to donate 100,000 lbs. of leftover food from exhibitors to local food banks following the event each year.

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