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Waste Not
Flashfood Offers a Solution to Food Waste That Doesn’t Leave the Grocery Store

The platform connects shoppers with near-expiration food coming directly from grocery shelves at a significant discount.

Food waste is a well-documented problem around the world, but the figures in the US alone are truly staggering. According to Feeding America, 38 percent of all food goes unsold or uneaten — translating to 149 billion meals heading to the landfill each year. The USDA notes that an estimated 31 percent of that annual food loss is at the retail and consumer levels.

Like many other social and climate issues, the problem with food waste is that there isn’t a silver-bullet solution to reduce it. Food waste happens at every link of the food value chain — farm, manufacturer, restaurant, consumer, and especially at the local grocery store.

A number of platforms, with varying degrees of success, are attempting to divert some of the many tons of still-perfectly-good food deemed unsellable from the broader distribution system to willing consumers. Toronto-based Flashfood cuts out the need for logistics and gets near-expiration food from the grocery shelf right to shoppers in store.

“We’re giving our partners an opportunity to reduce food waste, and it’s economically beneficial for our communities,” Flashfood founder & CEO Josh Domingues told Sustainable Brands® (SB).

While platforms such as Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market redirect unsellable or unwanted food from a wholesaler, farm or warehouse to consumers, Flashfood allows grocers to redirect food straight from the shelves. Grocers upload what’s available into the Flashfood app and shoppers can choose from the options — much like standard online grocery shopping — and shoppers can then pick up these items from designated Flashfood areas in the store. This offers an advantage for both sides of the partnership since there’s almost no additional cost or logistics in moving near-expiration items from the shelf. According to Domingues, Flashfood only makes money when the grocers sell products.

“It’s often difficult to move fresh, healthy and high-quality food (from distribution to consumer), and our shopper base has shared that they’re pleasantly surprised with the quality of food making its way through Flashfood,” he says.

A growing partner network

Mother and food blogger Stella Scaramangos collects a Flashfood order from her local Stop & Shop | Image courtesy of Flashfood

As of December, Flashfood is in more than 2,000 stores across the US and Canada. These include 700 stores under the Loblaws banner in Canada, and 75 percent of Stop & Shop’s 400-store footprint across the northeastern United States.

Stop & Shop began partnering with Flashfood in 2021; and it’s now operating in stores in all five states where it has outposts: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. According to the company’s corporate communications manager, Caroline Medeiros, the partnership has saved one million pounds of food from the landfill and saved shoppers more than $2 million on groceries.

“It’s quite astounding to see these numbers,” she told SB. “We would call this a success, and consider Flashfood a key piece of our health and sustainability work.”

While Flashfood is not the only conservation and waste-diversion lever the chain is using, Medeiros says it’s an important way that Stop & Shop can find new homes for fresh produce and dairy without having to leave the store. Flashfood sells produce in 5- to 15-lb. boxes for $5.00 (as directed by store availability); and she notes that this offering is the top-selling item. Other popular items include Italian sausage, chicken pie, organic grass-fed ground beef, chicken tenders and eggs. Flashfood also accepts SNAP EBT (electronic food stamps) in certain states, although Stop & Shop does not currently accept them as part of the partnership.

According to Domingues, Flashfood added 400 new partners in 2023, and has aggressive growth plans for 2024. He said the platform will launch in more states and pilot an e-commerce solution that would bring these near-expiration groceries to customers’ doors, although he declined to share specifics.