Growing Ideas: Smart price tags reduce food waste

Wasteless uses the power of dynamic pricing

Start-up Wasteless was a runner-up in this year’s Rabo Sustainable Innovation Awards thanks to its dynamic pricing software. With Wasteless, grocery prices can fluctuate according to the best-before date. The result is less waste…

Consumers often pick the product with the longest shelf life when grocery shopping, even if they plan to eat it the same day. Wasteless is introducing dynamic price displays to entice them into picking the bag of lettuce with a use-by date of only two days instead of four. As a result, stores are throwing out less.

What is Wasteless?

Ralph de Vries, Director of the Dutch-Israeli start-up, explains: “With Wasteless the consumer is shown the real-time price of products on a digital display. Prices fluctuate according to 42 parameters, including best-before date, time, peak hours and weather conditions. So the product you want could be available at three different price levels, depending on the best-before date of the three batches on the shelf.”

De Vries was initially an investor in Wasteless and has now been appointed Director. “Before I stepped into the business I wanted to see the technology work in practice,” he says. “There was a pilot already running in Spain, at a major supermarket chain there called Dia. When I saw it in action, I became so enthusiastic that I not only wanted to help, but actually get involved.”

How Wasteless works

“Thanks to our software, supermarkets can offer attractive discounts while protecting their margins. For instance, some shops have a policy not to sell milk with a best-before date of under three days. They don’t even bother to offer it at a discount, they just throw it out. Then there are supermarkets who always mark down prices by as much as 35% or 50%. That isn’t always necessary in order to sell the product and leads to loss of margin.

“In Madrid I noticed someone buy a sandwich that had been discounted by 50% because its best-before date was the following day. When I asked him about it he said he would have happily paid a bit more. So you don’t always need to offer huge discounts. That was a real eye-opener for me.”

“A store in our pilot throws out 70% less and margins are up 3%”

- Ralph de Vries, Director of Wasteless

And it helps cut food waste?

“The supermarkets participating in our pilot programs report that it helps them cut waste. The Dia in Madrid that is testing our system throws out 70% less food since the pilot started and margins are up 3%.”

What do you have planned for Wasteless?

“We have pilots running in Spain and Israel, and we’re working on setting one up in the Netherlands, because that is where we’ll be based. I talked to a national player in the Dutch grocery sector only today. A franchise operation is also an option, but I would prefer to test it in three to five branches. Then we want to cross over to the UK and the US. We’ve already been approached by Carrefour in France and Tesco in the UK.”

Wasteless was one of this year’s six runners-up in the Rabo Sustainable Innovation Awards in the Agrifood category. Launched in 2002, the awards consist of a cash prize and intensive guidance from Rabobank. The aim is to motivate entrepreneurs to work on innovative solutions that really matter.

This interview is part of the Growing Ideas series, in which we take a look at the future of agrifood and offer a platform to innovative companies in the sector. It previously appeared in Dutch on RTLZ, the website of a Dutch business and financial news channel.