It‘s possible to care about the environment, promote sustainability, spend less money, and use tech at the same time. F4A (Food 4 All) is proof of that.
We spoke with Ilana Devillers, CEO of F4A, a startup that fights food waste by connecting supermarkets and retailers with individuals who are interested in buying products close to their expiration date that may otherwise be wasted.
F4A (Food4All) is a Luxembourger startup fighting food waste in the retail sector – supermarkets, wholesalers, and so on. The idea was generated when I was a student in Strasbourg. I was living the super adventure of being a student and having a tight budget, which resulted in eating a lot of rice, potato, pasta, and instant noodles.
In 2016, I was studying Law and scandals regarding food waste at the supermarket level were exploding. I was shocked that, as a student with health issues, I couldn’t afford to eat healthy while supermarkets in every neighborhood were throwing away so much food.
The lightbulb moment came when a friend of mine invited me over for dinner and at the end of the night, asked me where I thought the ingredients came from. It was a strange question, but I answered that I assumed he had bought them from the supermarket down the street. He told me they’d actually come from the dumpster next to the supermarket down the street.
Honestly, I thought I would die, but thankfully I wasn’t poisoned! So, the day after, I dropped everything, started the idea, and called my family and friends in order to tell them about it: that I had a platform that allows everyone to see all products close to the expiry date and buy them at cheaper prices.
The reaction from family and friends was mixed but I was stubborn and decided to drop everything, pursuing a Master in Entrepreneurship and Innovation where I presented my idea. That’s how everything started.
The benefits of this approach are matching supply (the surplus of food that’s close to its expiry date) with demand (customers who would be eager to buy these products at a discounted price).
There are benefits both for merchants and end-users. Merchants sell the product they’ve bought, targeting other customer segments they wouldn’t normally be able to address. With high competition in the supermarkets, people aren’t so attached to the seller’s brand as to the proximity and quality of the products. This also brings commercial benefits to end-users.
Apart from that, there are other benefits for the end-user. Let’s take coronavirus for example. It hits the environment, and this affects the economy, making people poorer and jobs scarcer.
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Earth is getting warmer at a faster pace than expected. We have no choice but to fight food waste because it generates a lot of CO2 emissions. If “food waste” was a country, it would be the world’s third-largest country in terms of emissions after the US and China.
Most of the partners are sensitive to eco-consciousness. Currently, more than 82% of the CEOs of supermarket chains agree and are aware of the environmental issues today. When we started to develop the business in 2016, we were ahead with our ideas, but nowadays it’s easier to convince partners.
We’ve had challenges all along. The scarcity of tech profiles in the market is one of them. These days, there’s a high demand for IT professionals. Every company or institution is trying to get the best people from this domain onboard as digitalization has become unavoidable. In particular, it’s a challenge for startup companies such as us to find good and affordable professionals.
In Europe, we also face 27 different cultures, so we need to adapt to each of them, whereas in the US it’s a common culture, so it’s less difficult to develop there.
It consists basically of changing consumption behaviors in daily life
We also have some tips and tricks: for example, the freezer is your best friend. We have the tendency to overeat, so question your food intake. When you have leftovers, put them in a Tupperware and eat them the next day. If you’re unsure whether or not you’ll eat them straight away, then freeze them – but don’t forget to mark the day you’re freezing them.
The next step for F4A is the scale-up phase. We’re entering several countries but food waste is an international problem, so the mission is limitless. These are the big steps ahead!