Major brands to launch new platform to tackle food waste 

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A major new platform to help reduce food waste is currently being trialled by several of the UK’s leading brands. Founding partners Co-op and Microsoft, supported by others, have created Caboodle, a not-for-profit digital platform enabling supermarkets, cafés and restaurants to connect with community groups and volunteers to redistribute surplus food. In the UK, around 1.1 million tonnes of food goes to waste across the food retail and hospitality sector annually. While overall surplus food redistribution has trebled between 2015 and 20201, there are still 200,000 tonnes that could have been redistributed but have not been. 

Built on Microsoft’s Power Platform technology, Caboodle aims to create a single place where food retailers and businesses across the hospitality sector can connect with volunteers and community groups in every city, town and village in the UK, helping to share food when and where it is needed.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, Interim CEO of the Co-op said: “The amount of good quality surplus food that’s not currently being redistributed is astounding. We’re currently trialling caboodle in over 100 food stores and the results we’re seeing so far are incredible. We’ll be rolling it out across our entire estate next month and hope that all other retailers and businesses within hospitality will see the benefit too. The more organisations use Caboodle the simpler and more effective it will be for volunteers and community groups to gain access to good food.”

The platform, which is currently being trialled in a number of Co-op’s food stores, goes live next month across a further 2,500 stores. For supermarkets, cafes and restaurants, Caboodle will mean they’ll be able to share their surplus food online daily in an easier and more cost-effective way, using live notifications to alert charities when more slots are available. Meanwhile, for community groups they’ll save time by having the opportunity to book and schedule slots, receive live notifications when new slots are available and gain access to volunteers easily via a digital noticeboard.

Estelle Herszenhorn, food lead at WRAP said: “Surplus food redistribution has been a success story over recent years. 320,000 tonnes of food was saved from going to waste between 2015 and 2020 worth £1 billion, and providing the equivalent of 220 million meals. But much more good food is still going to waste that could feed people. Innovations like Caboodle that can help to overcome common barriers and ease redistribution of surplus food are really exciting and have the potential to make serious inroads into the 200,000 tonnes that WRAP estimates could still be redistributed.”

In addition, unlike other systems in place currently, community groups won’t have to race to log on daily to book their collection slots. Slots will be available indefinitely and community groups will be able to skip days or weeks depending on demand. Caboodle will also highlight volunteering opportunities through its online noticeboard. Furthermore, it is hoped that Caboodle will even encourage the creation of new food charities by making surplus food so readily available for sharing.

Clare Barclay, CEO of Microsoft UK commented: “One of the best things about Caboodle is not just the impact it will have, but also that it came from a chance conversation between a Microsoft employee and a Co-op store manager about how to stop good food going to waste. Low code development using the Microsoft Power Platform, means anyone can turn great ideas into real solutions.”

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