From 10kg of blueberries to 10-litre tubs of mayonnaise and handmade farmhouse cheese, surplus food is now up for grabs eBay-style, thanks to a new UK-based platform.
Using the principles of the infamous auction site, Takestock applies the transaction to solving food waste. The online trading platform efficiently connects owners of surplus stock with buyers, rather than scrapping it.
After all, far too much edible food finds its way to landfill. Much of the recent focus has been on consumer waste, and for good reason – food waste charity WRAP finds that every person spends £196 a year on food that goes straight in the bin. Meanwhile, research from LoveMoney.com finds that over a lifetime, the average Brit will throw away £12,350-worth of food.
But really, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Whether it’s farmers producing too much, retailers ordering too much, or produce that doesn’t meet supermarkets’ quality standards, the problem of food waste is rife along the entire value chain.
Takestock CEO Campbell Murray’s goal is to deal with food waste for good. And his first port of call is the food manufacturing and agricultural sectors, where £1bn and £4.5bn worth of food, respectively, is wasted each year in the UK alone.
Takestock believes that there is a buyer for all those food items clogging up warehouses around the country. Leveraging tech can unlock that value, which is said to be worth more than €20bn just across Europe.
The problem is stock being unwanted in one place and being in demand elsewhere. That includes both raw and finished food products, but also equipment, food service products and packaging, as well.
Takestock’s solution really is like eBay: Sellers list their advert of, say, their surplus farmhouse cheese with images and a description. Takestock suggests selling in the smallest quantities possible - to open it up to a larger client base and therefore maximum sales - to be realistic on price and assist with logistics where possible. Buyers then make an offer.
Rather than charging fees for set up or membership, Takestock takes a straight commission, but only after a transaction, so there’s no risk for sellers.
Using a platform such as Takestock, and redirecting a perfectly good resource from the bin, presents a win-win-win situation –sellers shift their stock, buyers gets a bargain and the environment benefits, too.
Sellers so far are mostly private-label food manufacturers and big multinationals, but there’s been an increase in market food traders, wholesalers and farmers using the platform too.
Many buyers are private food manufacturers and those in the catering and hospitality industry seeking cheaper ingredients, and others are people such as procurement consultants who have a client base and know where to source good deals.
While most acknowledge the problem and the validity of the solution, Murray says encouraging companies to use the platform efficiently can be a challenge, as it needs managing. Some sellers have gotten it right off the bat, and for others, there’s a bit of handholding required.
For example, “they won't respond to offers for a week. Then the buyer loses interest,” Murray told me in a recent interview. “So we track every offer, every question that's asked, [and] we contact the sellers if they haven't responded and nudge them along.”
It’s also an opportunity for supermarkets to suggest Takestock as a good option for their suppliers, should they find themselves with leftover inventory.
The latest advancement is the launch of the Takestock app - Murray notes that some of its users (and indeed, people who may be yet to join) may not spend much time in front of a PC, such as a food trader on a market stall. The app is perfect for those whose job is inherently mobile.
And by summer this year, Murray wants to take the business internationally. “We're hoping that… we'll have the whole thing pretty much baked,” he says. “We know what works and be able to take it around the world with confidence.”
The US is a big target, as is Europe, with an increasing demand already. “12-13 percent of our customers are now from Europe, in terms of footfall traffic and resident users,” he said.
Ultimately, “becoming the biggest place in the world to go to trade food is what it's all about,” Murray says. “The bigger it gets, the easier it becomes for everyone to find something they want.”