Whywaste – Where Sustainability Meets the Bottom Line

Over the past two years, the company has managed to curb food waste by 20 percent in about 100 Swedish supermarkets using data collection. In New York caught up with founders Annika Hellenberg, Martin Grådal, and Kristoffer Hagstedt behind the scenes at Sustainology.

How was the idea for Whywaste born?

We saw a problem that we wanted to solve: There is a lot of waste in grocery stores. We actually started with another idea; based on how to help the stores visually sell products that were getting wasted. But it turned out to be hard to implement on a bigger scale. So we went in a different direction and started to develop the software system that we have today.

In concrete terms, what data are you collecting to figure this out?

We basically get the data of what is about to expire. The staff in the stores provide a lot of that data, which we then feed back so the system can learn over time.

Grocery stores need help identifying food before it goes to waste. The first thing is identifying what food, so that you make sure you don’t miss anything. The second step is marking it down, finding new ways of selling it, potentially finding new customers through new channels, and also giving to charitable organizations. The latter takes a lot of administration, but since we can combine the data that we collect in reports, we reduce the time it takes and make it more efficient.

What are your future plans?

We are planning to look more at the whole chain. Right now, we are able to reduce food waste by 20 percent, on average, but as we go forward and get more data we are able to tweak how the stores work even more. Our mission is to reduce the food waste to zero. What we have seen in Sweden is that it’s about sustainability, but also about economy. If you can reduce food waste, you save money, and combining those two factors is attractive to businesses all over the world.