New app aims to fight food waste

Montreal-based app helps connect retailers and consumers directly

Fledging entrepreneur Caroline Pellegrini was sitting in a friend's sushi shop on a busy street in downtown Montreal when the idea for her new business hit her.

"My friend said that sometimes at the end of the day he had leftovers, and that it would cool if there was an app to help sell them, instead of having to throw them away," recalled Pellegrini. "It got me thinking."

The result is Ubifood, a mobile application that connects consumers and food retailers in real time, allowing them to sell discounted food items instantly.

Customers then go to the retailer to collect their items.

Launched yesterday in Montreal, the app is being billed as a triple-win solution that benefits the environment, forward thinking retailers, and today's eco-conscious clientele.

"Six million tonnes of food, $27 billion worth, ends up in Canadian landfill sites every year," said Pellegrini, who developed the Ubifood concept with her partner and brother Ryan.

In addition to helping food retailers reduce the trouble and cost of food waste and disposal–and make a buck doing it–Pellegrini said her app also helps consumers save money.

"It helps turn trash into cash," quipped Pellegrini, who modelled the Ubifood concept from similar-minded apps she saw in the U.S. and France. "In just two taps consumers can seal the deal, then go and collect their meal from one of our food retail partners."

According to Pellegrini, it takes app-savvy retailers "less than 60 seconds" to upload expiry date-challenged food items for sale.

She said most participating retailers are bakeries, cafes, full-service and specialty restaurants (like her friend's sushi shop), as well as "a few" organic foods stores and c-stores in Montreal's downtown core.

"We're going to concentrate on developing the service here first, then hopefully expand," said Pellegrini.

While applauding the idea behind Ubifood, Canadian food waste expert Martin Gooch says more work needs to be done to reduce food waste.

"It doesn't really get at the root cause of food waste, which is preventing too much food production from occurring in the first place, not figuring out how to get rid of the excess," said Gooch.  "That's the holy grail for grocery stores and restaurants."


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