Growing Ideas - Fighting food waste with an app

The 'Afgeprijsd' app helps supermarkets and consumers

August de Vocht thought up the 'Afgeprijsd' app (it means ‘discounted’ in Dutch) in order to tackle food waste. He got the idea after seeing a reduced-price chicken in a supermarket.

De Vocht had agreed with his wife that they were going to have a barbecue the following day – which was a day after the chicken’s sell-by date. A supermarket employee advised him not to eat the chicken a day later. That meant the chicken would have to be thrown away at the end of the afternoon. De Vocht realised that he and his wife could have had the barbecue a day earlier if he had known about the chicken beforehand, and the chicken wouldn’t have been wasted. He set up his company, NoFoodWasted, to help supermarkets avoid similar scenarios.

What is NoFoodWasted?

De Vocht: “It’s the company behind the 'Afgeprijsd' app. In the app, consumers can see what products are reduced in price at the local supermarket because their sell-by date is fast approaching.

“The idea is that you are informed of any discounts before you go shopping. What makes you decide to buy a product that would otherwise be thrown away? The trigger for the consumer is the financial benefit, but in the end I hope to change behaviors.”

“The app's trigger is financial, but I hope to change behaviors”

- August de Vocht, NoFoodWasted

What problem are you solving?

“There’s a huge amount of food waste in the world. Part of it originates with supermarkets and consumers. I wanted to see if I could reduce that. I’ve seen discounted products in the supermarket for years, yet they are never promoted – even though promoting them could mean less wastage.

“Now 150 Dutch supermarket-chain franchisees are listing their discounted products on our app. If the product is sold, both the consumer and the supermarket employee can check off the list. If a supermarket wants to, we can even make a link with the cash-register system. Then the product disappears from the app as soon as it has been paid for.

“The app provides the supermarket with a financial benefit. Some franchisers find they throw away 18 to 25% fewer products. The fact that they are being socially and environmentally responsible at the same time is another good incentive.

“In the end, I hope that consumers only buy only what they need and that supermarkets can buy food more efficiently, so that farmers only produce what the market needs. They would then be able to focus on quality, rather than quantity.”

What was the biggest challenge of the app?

“Finding financing. It’s not easy being a start-up in the Netherlands. I kept hearing, 'Good idea! You should go ahead, but not with my money!’”

“I had pretty much given up when I participated in Rabobank's FoodBytes! in the US. It’s seen as a problem in the Netherlands if you want to pioneer a new product or service. But there I was told, 'Fantastic, so you’re a market leader!' That attitude helped me enormously.”

What next?

“We want to roll out the app to the rest of the world. The Netherlands is fun, but you have to think bigger if you really want to do something about food waste.”

“Now that we know about the success factors and the pitfalls, we want to broaden the platform. We could take what we do for supermarkets and offer it to butchers, greengrocers and restaurants. As long as they deal with produce with a short shelf life.”

This interview is part of the Growing Ideas series, in which we take a look at the future of food and agriculture and offer a platform to innovative companies in these sectors.

This is a translation of an article that was previously published on RTL Z, the website of a Dutch business and financial news channel.