Digital marketplace app Flashfood says its partnership with Loblaw Companies Ltd. has hit some significant milestones, diverting over 40 million pounds of food from landfills since 2019 while saving consumers approximately $110 million on groceries.
That equates to 76 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) saved, or 7,428 gas powered passenger vehicles being taken off the road for a year, the companies say. Flashfood calculated the savings using its own methodology based on the estimated weight of the food products which were sold, rather than being discarded, which is then used to determine the prevented CO2e.
Flashfood’s app shows items in grocery stores nearing their best-by dates such as meats, dairy, seafood as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, and offering them for 50 per cent off. Shoppers purchase these items through the app, and they are picked up in designated zones within the store.
“Food waste in grocery stores has been going on for decades, despite the interventions . . . and the programs that grocers (implemented). It remains a massive economic problem,” said Kate Leadbeater, Flashfood’s chief marketing officer. “If food waste were a country, it would be third behind the U.S. and China in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions that it produced.”
She also says some individual shoppers have saved over $10,000 through regular use of the app.
Loblaw, headquartered in Brampton, Ont., is Canada’s largest retailer and private sector employer with nearly 2,500 stores and e-commerce options.
Flashfood and Loblaw
Flashfood was founded by CEO Josh Domingues in 2016 in Toronto. Today, it is integrated within 720 Loblaw stores and franchises. It is also present in Loblaw affiliates including No Frills, Maxi, Real Canadian Superstore, Atlantic Superstore, Loblaws, Real Canadian Wholesale Club, Zehrs, Independent, Provigo and Dominion.
The free app is available on Android and iOS.
“The partnership with Loblaws was piloted initially in Ontario and Quebec, and then we went coast to coast with them in 2019, I believe. And the partnership has continued to scale,” Leadbeater said. “They are our biggest partner, and we're the first partner to scale up to all of their stores that we work with. That partnership continues to grow year over year.”
It began in 2019 with 139 Maxi and Provigo stores in Quebec. That June, the program expanded with an additional 250 stores. By May 2020, the partnership had diverted 4.6 million pounds of food.
The company states its had over 1.6 million Canadian users over the past two years.
Flashfood also works with several other retail banners, including the GIANT Company, Meijer, Tops Friendly Markets, Martin's Markets, VG's, Family Fare, Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Giant Food and Stop & Shop.
The company is largely focused on expanding its U.S. footprint, where it is centred on the northeast and Midwest, along with some stores in Florida.
Part of that expansion will include adding food stamp capabilities to the platform “very soon.” In the U.S., it will be via the existing federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Leadbeater promised announcements later this year for platform introductions in new states. While a future expansion outside of the U.S. and Canada isn’t out of the question, the focus remains on its existing market for the foreseeable future.
Typically, Leadbeater said, the grocers are reaching out to Flashfood looking for ways to improve sustainability as well as their margins. Programs are usually rolled out first in anywhere from 10 to 40 stores, before expanding in scale.
“What we find is that grocers are looking to tackle the food waste problem from all different kinds of angles, because it is a really challenging thing to solve, and its an issue that has plagued this industry, despite the different tools and the toolkits that they are looking to incorporate,” she said.
“So grocers are having a number of different solutions that they bring on board, and Flashfood is one of those solutions.”