The app that turns restaurant leftovers into cheap meals takes off in Asia

With a mouthwatering array of satay chicken, king crab and chilled tiger prawns, the buffet dinner at Singapore’s Grand Hyatt hotel typically costs diners around $70. Tighter ones budget and with a view of sustainability, it is possible to fill a cell for a tenth of that price.

Across Asia, technology starting a business is taking food destined for landfill and delivering discounted meals through mobile devices phone application.

About a third of food is lost or wasted every year globally, and mountains of waste are estimated to be responsible for 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, United Nation speak. The Asia-Pacific region is one of the worst regions in the world for food waste, accounting for more than half of global food waste.

Preston Wong, managing director and co-founder of the processing division, collaborates with chains including Hyatt, Accor Group and Singapore The Marriott Tang Plaza hotel allows app users to pick and pick up “buffet-in-the-box” food that would otherwise be thrown out. “I think technology can bridge that gap,” he said.

With more than 30,000 users, junk food has saved an estimated 30 tons of food from going to waste since its launch in 2017, users often have to wait until the end of the service before they can get it. his food, according to Wong. However, this is a far cry from the 817,000 tons of food waste in Singapore in 2021, up 23% year-on-year. Authorities say the city’s sole landfill, Semakau, is expected to meet Singapore’s solid waste disposal needs through 2035 and beyond.

Hong Kong face similar problems. It has filled 13 landfills, and about 3,300 tonnes of food waste per day is dumped in its remaining areas by 2020, according to the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Bureau.

“Space is very limited,” said Anne-Claire Béraud, Phenix Hong Kong manager for OnTheList, an app that launched in the territory last year. “Everything is so dense that there isn’t much space to deal with all this waste”.

The app allows users to pick up a “Mystery Basket” of food at stores including Pret A Manger and local bakery The Cakery with a minimum 50% discount.

To date, it has sold 25,000 baskets, with each basket equivalent to about 1 kg of food saved from waste and 4.5 kg of CO2 emissions, the company said.

Phenix’s Initial Platform Launched in France in 2014 and expanded to four other European countries, where 150 million meals were saved. It has partnered with OnTheList, a fast-selling company, to bring the app to Asia.

The concept of food sustainability is still in its infancy in Asia, compared with North America and Europe where the authorities are suppressing. France has banned supermarkets from throwing away unsold food, and Spain recently drafted legislation to deal with corporate waste fines. WE states include California and New Jersey have laws that reduce the amount of food that goes to landfills.

That has fueled the popularity of apps like Too Good To Go, which launched in Denmark in 2016 and now operates in 17 countries including the US, Canada and the US. UK. It has delivered more than 152 million meals through so-called Magic Bags, which are sold at a discount by shops and restaurants at the end of the day with items that should have been thrown away.

In a culturally diverse region like Asia, smaller local startups are gaining a foothold when it comes to catering to their home markets.

Taichi Isaku, co-founder and product manager of CoCooking, the company that created the food rescue app Tabete in Japan, said “companies have to fit into that region’s culture and habits. “It’s an area that must be nurtured to successfully introduce new technologies.”

Tabete, released in 2018 in Japan, is a free app with a similar business model to Too Good To Go. It has rescued 384,000 meals, accumulated 525,000 users, and partnered with 2,140 stores.

Tess Kermode, director of international expansion for UK-based Olio, agrees that companies need to “understand the culture and the people in a particular market”.

The company operates in 62 countries including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand and the Philippines. The application mostly community based neighbors posting free food for them to pick up from their homes. The so-called Food Waste Hero also collects leftovers from businesses and takes them home for listing.

Olio says the app has saved nearly 58 million servings of food worldwide. Its largest international market is Singapore, where it has over 125,000 users and has an official partnership with foodpanda’s online marketplace. The company has expansion ambitions but, like other apps, says the lack of awareness of food sustainability in Asia is currently a factor holding back growth.

“Consumer-oriented technologies like apps on personal devices can be very powerful,” said Anthony Bennett, senior food systems official for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Asia and the Pacific. useful. “However, this topic should be considered alongside increasing food literacy in general for consumers.”

Several apps, including junk food and Tabete, are dealing with such problems themselves and are trying to educate users on food waste reduction tips and recipes on their social media pages. surname.

“In North America and Europe, there has been some maturity in understanding such challenges and addressing them,” says Wong of TRsure. “But in Asia, this story has just begun.”

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