Sector trends

The food innovators: tech trailblazers

Three food-tech businesses share the impact of the pandemic on their operations and future plans – and why their solutions are keeping food on the table.

Hospitality has been one of the hardest-hit industries worldwide – and that has had a knock-on effect on many aspects of the food supply chain. While lockdowns have reduced footfall in restaurants, cafes and hotels, growers who supply food-service businesses have been left with excess crops and fewer customers to sell to.

Here, three businesses share their insights and experiences of keeping the country fed in the midst of a pandemic.

We connect businesses with users of our app to save surplus food

Mette Lykke
CEO of Too Good To Go:

“We’re a company that exists to fight food waste. We’re best known for our app, which connects users with nearby food businesses that have surplus food at risk of going to waste.

“Technology is a core part of what we do. For us, it’s an enabler that helps us make a positive impact on one of the world’s most pressing challenges. During the coronavirus pandemic, the fragility of our supply chains has been exacerbated and exposed. It’s bad enough that there is an acceptable and expected level of food waste in the industry, but we saw the worst-case scenario this year. While in some places there was food scarcity, there was hoarding and oversupply in others. And many farmers and suppliers were stuck with excess stock and no end consumer to sell it to.

“To help alleviate these problems, we’ve been busy connecting businesses to our users to not only save surplus food, but to help suppliers make a profit from what would otherwise go to waste. Some good examples of companies we’ve supported include a meat producer called Nortura in Norway, which normally provides meat to the professional market, and a cheese producer called Lactalis in Denmark, which had 80 tonnes of excess cheese that would have ended up in the bin. We set them up with a new profile in the app, which allowed them to sell at greater quantities.

“As a result, in just a few weeks, we were able to save the equivalent of 2,000 Too Good To Go Magic Bags [bags containing surprise items of unsold food]. Looking to the future, we think that people will have a lot more respect for food. The effect of seeing empty supermarket shelves and wondering when the next delivery of our favourite item will arrive will make all of us think twice before throwing things away.”

Our clients can map their supply chain from farm to fork

Stephen Whyte
managing director of Qadex

“Every food product you buy in a supermarket or restaurant has a complex supply chain. And that supply chain poses risks, such as food safety, adulteration and fraud. At Qadex, we work with 16,000 food factories – mainly in Europe and North America – to help them identify and manage risks within their supply chains using cloud-based software.

“Our Supply Chain Mapper system, for example, allows users to map their supply chain from farm to fork – enabling them to identify risks and trace the source of ingredients – and share these maps with their customers.

The coronavirus has certainly speeded up the transition from manual processes to technological ones in the food sector. And more factories are making the move toward automation

Stephen Whyte
managing director, Qadex

“Since lockdown came into effect, there’s been more uncertainty around household budgets as people have been furloughed or lost their jobs completely. And with people spending more time at home, households have been in need of additional staples they can buy in bulk at a cheaper price and have delivered to their door.

Our mission is to make sustainable living more accessible to all

Ben Patten
founder of Good Club

“Our mission is to make sustainable living more accessible to everyone. As an online supermarket, we offer ethical groceries and household products that meet certain social and environmental standards at up to 40% lower prices than conventional retailers.

“Recently, we’ve developed a detailed buying policy that reflects our principles in terms of sustainable production. We select products that have low energy and water consumption, that are pesticide-free, and that support animal welfare. 

“We’re also doing all we can to implement zero-waste initiatives. For example, we’ve developed a range of products that are delivered in reusable containers, which customers can then send back to us at zero cost.

“Since March, anyone working in the food service or hospitality industry has had a torrid time. Factory and warehouse employees, in particular, have been exposed to increased risk of coronavirus by having to work in close quarters with others. Across the board, a lot of people in the food sector have had to deal with poor workplace standards – which I hope is a trend that isn’t going to continue.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure our warehouse is a nice place to work by implementing the right protective measures and being sensitive to the needs of our employees. This is the least businesses could be doing right now to protect their staff during the crisis.”

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