A major new platform to help reduce food waste is currently being trialled and set to be launched by some of the UK’s leading brands.
Founding partners Co-op and Microsoft, supported by technology consultancy BJSS and Team ITG, have created Caboodle, a not-for-profit digital platform that enables 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*.
Whilst many are working hard to help combat food waste, the process remains cumbersome for community groups. So whilst overall surplus food redistribution has trebled between 2015 and 20201, there are still 200,000 tonnes that could have been redistributed but has not.
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 Co-op’s food stores in Northern Ireland, Milton Keynes and London goes live next month across a further 2,500 food stores. Community groups outside of these areas can register now to be notified of when Caboodle is operating in their area at group.thecaboodle.co.uk
It’s open to charities and community groups of all kinds, from food banks and family support networks to youth groups, schools and more.
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.”
The platform is currently being trialled with support from environmental charity Hubbub through the Community Fridge Network.
Alex Robinson CEO of Hubbub said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the development of Caboodle by providing insight from communities and trialling the platform with our Milton Keynes Community Fridge. We’re passionate about supporting initiatives that help to reduce food waste and have a positive impact on the environment.”
Richard Smith, Deputy Head of Food Supply at The Felix Project commented: “As a charity which has tested Caboodle and is already seeing the benefits, we know it will make a real difference to others like ourselves.
“The process for us is just easier and unlike other systems it works in a way that allows us to notify stores if we can’t make our collection slots – offering the slot to another group nearby saving food from going to waste at a time when so many are in need of it.”
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. People who want to volunteer to help redistribute food can enter their postcode to find a local group they’d like to work with to make a difference.
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.”
Stuart Bullock, CEO of BJSS commented: “We’re delighted to be part of this project to get surplus food to those who need it most with Co-op, Microsoft, ITG, and Hubbub.
“One of the greatest benefits of this collaborative, multidisciplinary partnership is that it enabled a rapid, agile delivery, defining, designing & building Caboodle in just 22 weeks, meeting the needs of retailers and charity groups alike. For such an urgent cause, the ability to quickly deliver solutions that help those most in need is vital.”
Rachel Johnson, Business Unit Director, Team ITG commented: “We have loved leading on the brand strategy and creative identity direction of Caboodle.
It’s been such an exciting new brand to create alongside some brilliant partners, and one that will truly empower everyone to help make a difference in making sure good surplus food doesn’t go to waste.”