Taking a bite out of global food waste

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OLIO, the community sustainability app, has announced a $43million Series B round to fund its fight against the $1.3trillion of food waste created globally each year.

Founded in 2015 by Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One (pictured), OLIO has amassed a user base of five million people. The app is used to give away unwanted food and other household items to neighbours, for free, with the aim of reducing waste in the home and helping people to consume more locally and sustainably. 

OLIO is the brainchild of Clarke, who struggled to find anyone to take the unwanted food from her fridge when she was moving home. Since its launch, the app has enabled over 25 million portions of food and three million non-food items to be saved from the bin. 

This latest fundraise saw existing investors Swedish investment firm VNV Global and New York-based hedge fund Lugard Road Capital become major investors in OLIO, supported by further funds from Accel, Octopus Ventures, Rubio plus technology entrepreneur and chair of Grimsby Town football club Jason Stockwood and media entrepreneur and politician Lord Waheed Alli. 

DX Ventures, the VC arm of food delivery firm Delivery Hero, is a new highly strategic investor in the round. This partnership will enable OLIO to accelerate its international expansion plans, and quickly grow the Food Waste Heroes Programme, which supports food businesses and restaurants around the world in their quest to achieve zero food waste locations. 

After a year of rapid growth in the UK, OLIO plans to build its presence across the world, focusing on 10 key markets in Latin America, Northern Europe and Asia, where the app has seen very strong organic growth. 

Clarke said: “OLIO has grown five times over the last year, reflecting a step change that’s taken place as businesses and citizens look to be more sustainable and connect with their local communities. We’re beyond thrilled to have raised this capital from a brilliant set of investors who are backing our vision of reinventing consumption for more than one billion OLIOers by 2030. We have this enormous ambition because humanity cannot continue to puzzle over how to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees and feed a population of 10 billion - whilst continuing to throw away one third of the food we produce, and consuming as if we have 1.75 planets. In solving these twin problems we aim to build one of the most transformational companies of our generation.” 

The funds will also be used to rapidly accelerate the roll-out of OLIO’s Food Waste Heroes programme in the UK and other international markets. OLIO has over 30,000 Food Waste Heroes, who are trained members of the community collecting and redistributing unsold or unserved food from businesses such as Pret A Manger, Compass Catering, Costa Coffee and Elior. Last year, Tesco became the latest retailer to join the scheme, with 2,700 UK stores now redistributing surplus food nearing its sell-by date via OLIO’s network.

“Demand from both UK and international businesses to help reduce their waste is at an all-time high as they strive to meet their ESG commitments,” added Clarke. “Incoming enquiries from major retailers, grocery delivery services and fast-food brands are coming in thick and fast. OLIO is one of the simplest, most cost-effective ways an organisation can achieve zero food waste.”

As well as connecting neighbours to give away food and other household items, OLIO also has a 'MADE' section for users to buy & sell local homemade food and handmade crafts; ‘GOALS’, which showcases over 100 simple swaps to live more sustainably; and it plans to launch brand new features, ‘BORROW’ and ‘WANTED’, within the next six months.
To support the product development and global expansion, the investment will be used to scale the OLIO team from 40 to 175+ over the next two years. This includes hiring a CTO, and Directors to head up the People, Food Waste Heroes, Marketing and Growth functions, plus various roles across product, design and business development.

Per Brillioth, CEO of VNV Global, which led the round, said: “The growth of OLIO over the last year has been nothing short of phenomenal and it’s clear that consumers are becoming increasingly focused on the small actions they can take to improve the sustainability of their households. OLIO, a next generation community marketplace with the potential for truly global reach, is perfectly positioned to service this movement and in doing so create a truly transformational company. We’re delighted to be part of the OLIO journey and look forward to supporting Tessa, Saasha and their team.”

Duncan McIntyre, Managing Partner of DX Ventures said: “We are excited to back Tessa, Saasha and the OLIO team as we are strongly aligned with the sustainability mission of the company. Having built a solid and fast growing community of users, OLIO is tackling the global food waste problem in a scalable and sustainable way. OLIO has an incredibly well-loved product, and with this partnership, we look forward to helping OLIO grow and expand its global footprint.”
 

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