A Conversation with Patrick Bultema of FoodMaven —
The current state of Food Waste in the country is now 40% of everything US Ag produces, according to the USDA. It is estimated that we are approaching $200B of food lost in the US food system each year, accounting for 1/3 of what goes into landfills. The EPA estimates this is hundreds of billions of pounds of food going into landfills making this a huge environmental issue.
We talked with the CEO of FoodMaven to learn more about the issue and find out what is being done.
Why and where in the food system does this waste happen?
Loss happens at every stage from the farm to grocery. In part, it’s the inefficiency and inflexibility of our 1950s era food system that hasn’t materially changed since. Our current system oversupplies at every step from the farm to the packing shed. It involves gathering food to large centers for manufacturing and distribution and then to the tens of thousands of grocery stores. This means food has to travel long distances and be stored for long periods, and food is lost in this process.
Loss is also driven by ‘abundance expectation’ and the associated oversupply of needing to have everything all the time. Also, imperfect food contributes to this issue. What is perfectly good food is lost for purely cosmetic issues. In some cases it could be short date where a product doesn’t have enough time to advance in the system. With all of this working against it, local products have a very difficult time getting into the system.
What is missing from the current food delivery system?
AGILITY! This is what is missing from the current system, leading to a tremendous amount of food loss. We are seeing promising trends like in the beer industry, where we are moving away from big national brands dominating, to the rise of micro brews, to craft beer, and now the local neighborhood brew. A more agile food system better aligns with and supports this proliferation of new, boutique, healthier food products. A system that does local better also makes it possible to tune the system for the food (instead of the other way around).
What are some of the strategies that restaurants can employ to help to curb this waste?
Of course, we are happy to have them buy from FoodMaven recognizing that our model prevents waste. (In fact, FoodMaven gets a restaurant credit toward their sustainable green certification.) But also buying as close to the source is an important tactic … In short, buying local means less food loss. Also, obviously portion size control, not over prepping, all help reduce waste in restaurants.
How is FoodMaven working to compliment or replace the current food distribution model to curb waste?
We really view ourselves as a complement to the big food system, bringing the flexibility and agility needed. Most of our restaurant customers view us as a complement to their current suppliers, knowing that we not only get them compelling deals, but that our broader social mission is something they care about. But we also provide flexible options you won’t likely find from other suppliers. For instance, some restaurants will find one of our deals so compelling they want to buy all of a product we have in stock. But they don’t have storage room. We can actually sell an entire lot, and then deliver a set number of cases each month. Again, our customers are finding creative, insightful, and value creating ways to work with us.
TEDxMileHigh has invited Patrick Bultema, FoodMaven Co-Founder and CEO, to be a speaker at TEDxMileHigh: Wonder on November 11th at the Colorado Convention Center! Get your tickets today!
FoodMaven is an innovative internet marketplace and rapid logistics company bringing agility and flexibility to the U.S. food system. The company’s goal is to capture and reclaim revenues from lost food, estimated at $200 billion per year. FoodMaven sells high-quality local and oversupplied food from distributors, manufacturers and producers to restaurants and institutional buyers at about half price. With an efficient Internet marketplace, big data optimization technology, and agile logistics model, FoodMaven is good for profits, good for people and good for the planet. For more information, please visit foodmaven.co.