Grocery chain Meijer announced this week it is on track to complete its food waste reduction program with Flashfood this year, with plans to expand the initiative across all Meijer stores in the Midwest.
The program, which involves customers buying surplus Meijer food via the Flashfood app, originally launched in 2019 and was slated for a wider expansion in 2020. That expansion was delayed when COVID-19 hit, but Meijer is now expanding the program from its original Detroit, Michigan location to Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, and the rest of Michigan.
Flashfood, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario in Canada, also has “Flashfood zones” available in multiple provinces across Canada as well as in New York and Pennsylvania. The company works with grocery retailers to rescue surplus or cosmetically imperfect foods that would ordinarily go to the landfill.
From the consumer side, users first select their grocery store on the Flashfood app and set it as their location. They can then browse the foods available for purchase via the Flashfood program. Since these items are either surplus or unsellable (for cosmetic reasons) on the stores regular shelves, they are usually priced at a discount, sometimes 50 percent lower.
After selecting and paying for food, the user heads to their designated grocery store and confirms their order with a customer service or staff person. From there, they can retrieve their items from a Flashfood fridge, which is usually kept at the front of the store. As of right now, the process is somewhat manual, since users have to confirm their order with a human being at the store, rather than simply unlocking the fridge with a QR or text code via their smartphone.
The concept of rescuing then reselling cosmetically imperfect produce from the grocery store was, until recently, a fairly niche market in the U.S. The last year has seen the category expand, however. Too Good to Go launched in certain U.S. markets, while Imperfect Foods expanded its grocery e-commerce platform to include pantry staples, meat, and dairy items, in addition to rescued produce. Likewise, Misfits Market runs a robust e-commerce platform in the U.S. for reselling surplus food from grocery stores.
Flashfood’s partnership with Meijer, and this current expansion, will give Flashfood substantially more visibility in parts of the U.S. While the company has not confirmed as much, this could lead to partnerships with other major American grocery retailers in the future.