You bought too much food this week but tomorrow you go on vacation, so you don’t know what to do with it? Or have you changed your mind for what to cook and want to get rid of the food you have in your fridge but you feel bad throwing it away? Maybe your unwanted veggies will be your next-door neighbor’s treasure but you never talked to them before so you think it might be awkward offering them your food? Worry no more, OLIO will solve your problem and save your food from being wasted!
What is it?
OLIO is an app that started the food sharing revolution in 2015. Classified as the “tinder for leftovers” (Vaughan, 2017), OLIO helps you connect with people around you, as well as with local businesses in order to share your unwanted food with others, instead of throwing it away. The idea for developing the app struck Tessa Cook in December 2014 while she was packing up her apartment in Switzerland, ready to move back to the UK. As it normally happens at moments like this, she had food left in her fridge that she couldn’t finish but also did not want to throw away. After realizing how much food ends up being thrown away in similar situations, she teamed up with a friend of hers, Saacha Celestial-One and the two of them started working on the idea of OLIO. The vision guiding the two women was to create a world in which “nothing of value goes to waste, and every person has enough to eat” (Olioex.com, 2018). Even for the short period of its existence, the app has become a huge success. Currently it has more than quarter million users in 41 countries worldwide, and nearly half a million food pieces have been saved since the app started.
How does it work?
The way OLIO works is simple and intuitive. Each user has a profile page where they can put a photo and briefly describe who they are. After setting up their profile, app users just need to add a photo and description of the item they want to sell, as well as specify from where and when the item can be picked up. The app has a browsing catalog with all items available near the user. Once the users have found a product they like, they simply need to request it and arrange convenient time to pick it up with the seller via a private message. Users can also rate and review other users based on the experience they have had with them. This also facilitates a safer sharing process, as users can decide for themselves with whom to share their food based on the other’s profile and ratings.
Reducing food waste through shared economy
OLIO is an example of how shared economy can be used to tackle one of the major problems societies face today: food waste. Studies shows that as much as 50% of the food produced globally is never eaten and is thrown away, making the food waste a $1 trillion problem (Olioex.com, 2018). By providing a C2C platform that connects people who want to share their food, the app does not only help in cutting food waste, but also brings people, especially neighbors, together and builds a food sharing community. The founders initially did not raise any revenues, as the main goal was to grow their network and gain more popularity. Currently, the revenue-based business model is followed, as the app charges commission fees for those items that are paid directly through the app or for donations made through the app. Nevertheless, buyers and sellers are also given the opportunity to just use the app to connect with each other without making any payment transactions through the app. In these cases, sellers can post their unwanted food items for free, while buyers derive a benefit by getting food items for free or for super low prices (Nair, 2016). In this way joint profitability is achieved for all parties involved.
After seeing how successful their OLIO initiative has become, the founders took a next step by teaming up with two charities, Feedback and FareShare in order to increase the reach of their fighting-food-waste efforts. A new addition to the app allows users to add not only food, but also other household items and to request a pay-as-much-as-you-like donation for one of the charities (Olioex.com, 2018). The founders have also started collaborations with more than 11,000 volunteers who have the mission to spread OLIO’s vision and goals around the world.
The food sharing revolution that OLIO has started is now also embraced by other companies. Leftoverswap, Foodsharing.de and Eatro are among the other apps offering similar ways in which people can share their food. Despite the fact that competition for OLIO is growing, the rise in other initiatives supporting food sharing can only be seen as something positive, as it brings society a step further in its fight with food waste!
Nair, P. (2016). Food waste: there’s an app for that. [online] Growth Business. Available at: http://www.growthbusiness.co.uk/food-waste-theres-app-2543941/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].
OLIO. (2018). About. [online] Available at: https://olioex.com/about/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].
OLIO. (2018). Charitable donations. [online] Available at: https://olioex.com/charitable-fundraising/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018]
Vaughan, P. (2017). The app that’s kickstarting a food-sharing revolution. [online] Huck Magazine. Available at: http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/olio-app-food-free-socially-conscious-waste-sharing/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2018].