As my colleague Catherine Lamb wrote this past summer, “Karma is a mobile app that helps retailers sell excess food to consumers at super-reduced prices. The only rules are that the food can’t be past its legal sell-by date and that retailers must list it for at least 50 percent less than its original price.”
Electrolux is also an investor in Karma, and as part of that investment, the two companies agreed to partner up to find ways to fight food waste. One of those ways is this new smart refrigerator, which launched its beta today at the ICA Kvantum Liljeholmen grocery store in Stockholm, Sweden.
The fridge acts as a locker/waystation where unsold food that would otherwise be thrown away is held. Karma users can purchase that food through the Karma app, then pick it up from the new smart fridge in the store. The user unlocks the fridge by displaying a QR code and shows the product at checkout to complete the transaction.
While we haven’t used it, this actually seems like a really smart marriage of hardware and software to fight the food waste problem. It gives Karma shoppers a more streamlined user experience when purchasing food. It gives Karma some in-store advertising. And it provides stores an elegant means of keeping food that would otherwise be thrown out while weaving that experience into broader shopping trips.
Karma says their app has been downloaded 400,000 times (though didn’t mention usage). The startup works with 1,500 food-sellers (grocery stores, cafés, bakeries, etc.) and is also expanding outside of Sweden into the U.K. Electrolux already cranks out refrigerators, so if this new solution catches on with consumers, it’s not hard to see these fridges popping up in more stores and chains across Sweden and Europe.
And while it’s weird to put something as noble as fighting food waste in competitive terms, this appliance partnership with a big brand like Electrolux could give Karma an edge over rival food waste company Too Good To Go, which currently has a much bigger reach across Europe.
As noted, this is the first partnership between Electrolux and Karma. Now we’ll see if they expand the relationship into other appliances and perhaps even shoppable recipes.