Based in Slovenia, FoodPlus began in 2015 when co-founder Dalibor Matijevic began searching for a way to cut down on food waste by redistributing surplus food. He developed a B2B platform for companies to buy and sell extra food at a super low cost — creating a new revenue stream and keeping food out of landfills.
When suppliers end up with surplus food products because of warehouse inefficiencies, a logo rebrand, or nearing expiry dates, they typically have to pay to have it destroyed — at least in Slovenia. With FoodPlus, however, companies can post said extra food on an online marketplace for a super low cost, usually around 70% off. FoodPlus acts as a middleman, facilitating the sale and coordinating delivery to purchasers — usually high-volume food providers like cafeterias, catering companies and hotels — through their logistics partners. “We’re making the Amazon for surplus food,” co-founder Gregor Pecnik told me over Skype.
You might think: “Hey, I want to buy some super-cheap spaghetti, too!” If you’re in Slovenia, you can: FoodPlus operates two physical stores where they sell surplus food sourced directly to consumers. Called RobinFood, the first store opened its doors in mid-2017. Their website claims they’ve sold over 100,000 items and make about €15,000 (~$17,500) to €20,000 (~$23,300) per month in revenue. They recently opened a second location through a partner and are hoping to franchise the stores throughout Europe.
Currently FoodPlus only sells dry packaged goods, like pasta, sugar, or chocolate. “They’re much easier to transport, and have a larger window where they stay good,” Pecnik told me. Eventually they hope to expand into fresh goods, like fruits and vegetables.
Pecnik told me that they’re also hoping to expand out of Eastern Europe and into places like the U.K., which has greener pastures for startups working in the food waste arena. “In Eastern Europe we still have to do a lot of education and awareness-raising about how companies will benefit from a company like ours,” he said. While there might not be much opportunity in Slovenia, there also aren’t many competitors: once they expand — especially into the U.K., which boasts quite a few food waste startups — they’ll certainly bump into a few. Most notable is Matsmart, the Swedish e-commerce company which also sells surplus food to consumers.
The same goes for their plan to expand into fresh food. At the moment, they seem to be the only company focusing on surplus dry goods. Move into fresh food, and there’s a sea of competitors. In Europe, Karma and Too Good To Go let customers buy leftover food from restaurants, and Toast Ale turns leftover bread into beer.
FoodPlus currently sources surplus food from over 100 distributors, including Danone and Orbico (an Eastern European distribution company). They’re currently working on their next marketplace iteration. Dubbed FoodPlusX, it will use blockchain to give distributors the option to keep information on what surplus they’re selling — and at what price — private to protect brand reputation.
FoodPlus received equity investment from Enterprise Ireland (though they didn’t disclose how much). They’re currently bootstrapped and plan to start fundraising in early 2019.
In the end, I’m skeptical as to whether their global clients will actually care much about FoodPlus’ noble food waste mission. However, they will definitely care about a fatter bottom line. Whatever they choose to buy or sell on FoodPlus, the end result is the same: less food waste. And that’s always a good thing.