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How to combat food waste with technology

with Tessa Clarke

Tessa Clarke is the co-founder of OLIO, an app that connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so that surplus food can be shared and saved, instead of being thrown away. Whether this is food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, bread from the bakers or the groceries in your own fridge – simply open the app, add a photo, description, and when the item is available for pick-up and you’re done! OLIO can even be used for non-food household items too.


What we spoke about

The OLIO story begins with Tessa’s childhood. She grew up on her parent’s dairy farm in North Yorkshire, England.
‘I learned just how much hard work goes into producing the food we all eat every day and as a result of that, I have a pathological hatred of food wastage.’From a very early age, Tessa was determined to get as far away from the farm as possible. She attended Cambridge University and shortly after worked in the private sector, all the time knowing that she would soon be able to apply her skills to create positive change.

The ‘lightbulb’ moment came when she was packing up her apartment in Switzerland, getting ready to move back to the UK. The removal men informed her that food could not be taken back with her – and despite her best efforts to eat everything and give the rest away, she was still faced with the possibility that she might have to throw away perfectly good food.

‘Feeling thoroughly defeated I thought to myself – “This is absolutely crazy…. this food is delicious. Why isn’t there an app where I can share it with someone nearby who wants it?” And so the idea for OLIO was born…’

Olio today

OLIO launched in 2015 and has since gained 5 million app users in over 59 countries. Despite their growth, Clarke discussed the challenges that the company was faced with during their launch and how they’ve overcome them in time.

Digital ambassadors

The first challenge to arise was to grow the app. There wasn’t much of a conversation around food wastage at the time. Although she believes this has really taken off in the last few years and especially during the pandemic. OLIO introduced the Ambassadors Programme – for those who share the same beliefs, you can become a digital ambassador and gain access to a hub, where you’ll receive impactful emails which will help you in growing OLIO digitally.

Food Waste Heroes

Another issue OLIO faced was pairing up with other restaurants and cafes etc that had surplus food but weren’t able to spare the time or staff to add this to the app. The brand came up with the idea of a Food Waste Hero – an OLIOer who picks up upsold surplus food from businesses brings it home to list it on the app and then redistributes it to neighbours. Over 50% of items get picked up within 30 minutes!

How to be more conscious in your kitchen

Tessa shared with us her Five ‘S’ Model on how to stop food wastage at home:
Shop, Store, Serve, Share & Save

Discover Olio App