Tackling food waste through redistribution

If the heirs to the WalMart fortune are investing in your company, you must be doing something right. Find out why Colorado-based FoodMaven is attracting attention with its fight against food waste.

FoodMaven is harnessing big data, e-commerce and a sophisticated logistics system to create a market for food that would otherwise have been wasted. The start-up sources food from a broad range of producers and sells it on at attractive discounts. And what it doesn’t sell, it donates to charity.

Since its launch in 2016, FoodMaven has built up a base of over 700 customers, ranging from restaurants to hospitals. Former WholeFoods co-CEO Walter Robb joined its board earlier this year. Meanwhile, it has attracted investors looking for returns backed up by a healthy dose of social responsibility. It completed an $8.6 million Series A fundraising round in January 2018 led by members of Walmart’s Walton family.

Looking for a better way

CEO Patrick Bultema developed the idea for FoodMaven while working with students at Colorado College to distribute food among local charities.

“The global food supply chain produces great quality food in quantity at the right price,” he says. “But it’s not set up to ensure that all of that food gets eaten. You also have a crazy situation that sees up to 40% of what’s grown end up in the garbage, while nearly 70% of US growers are staving off bankruptcy because they feel forced to overproduce, but can’t sell all they grow. I thought there had to be a way to resolve that.”

“Farmers feel forced to overproduce, but can’t sell all they grow”

- Patrick Bultema, Foodmaven

Creating an impact

FoodMaven buys up surplus, cosmetically imperfect and local food from suppliers, and lists it online at a discount, typically between 50% to 70% of the price of standard wholesalers. It’s impact is already been felt by producers, customers and local charities.

“One supplier we work with is a chicken farmer who overproduces to fill orders, then has to freeze the surplus, which takes it out of his fresh chicken brand specification,” says Bultema. “We now sell that surplus to our customers, providing him with a revenue stream that wasn’t available before.

Part of the challenge initially was to alter the perception that FoodMaven offers second-rate food. Consistently supplying high quality produce at a competitive price has seen the company overcome that and expand its customer base.

“We want to provide profit for our partners and reduce food waste”

- Patrick Bultema, Foodmaven

590,000 kilos of food saved

Since launch, FoodMaven has saved 590,000 kilos of food from landfill and in 2017 alone it donated 325,000 meals to hunger relief charities. “We’re providing rescue missions and charities with much higher quality proteins and produce than they are used to receiving,” says Bultema.

The start-up plans to use the investment it received from its fundraising round earlier this year to expand beyond its Colorado base. “We want to broaden our geographical reach and be in as many markets as possible, including Europe,” says Bultema. “Ultimately, we aim to create a better food system by providing revenue and profit for all our partners, reducing food waste, and having a positive impact on the communities where we operate.”