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Food and Drink

Tessa Clarke

Tessa Clarke is co-founder of food-sharing app Olio.  Launched in 2015, the app connects neighbours with each other, and local businesses so surplus food can be shared and not thrown away.  The app has over 5 million users in 49 countries and estimates that over 34  million portions of food have been shared. 

One business success

  • We’ve had lots of successes–and just as many failures too! It’s impossible to choose just one success but perhaps the first time an item of food was shared via OLIO – it was homegrown lettuce in July 2015 and was proof that maybe, just maybe, this crazy idea was going to work! Other significant highlights have been closing funding rounds, filming with Jimmy Doherty & Jamie Oliver for their TV show Friday Night Feast, and winning an award from the United Nations which highlighted OLIO as a ‘beacon’ for the world.

Two challenges for the sector

  • For too long, food waste has been endemic in the sector, but now consumers and employees are calling time on this. Therefore businesses of all sizes need to be measuring, monitoring and eliminating their food waste as a matter of urgency. Food waste is a complex issue which has historically been tough to crack, but with OLIO’s Food Waste Heroes Programme there’s no longer an excuse for any business to be throwing away food from their stores.
  • Another major challenge is that the sector needs to move its marketing on from appealing to our ‘monkey brain’, and selling us food that’s attractive but not necessarily good for us or sustainable. Instead, it needs to do something much, much harder, which is to convince us to undertake behaviour change at scale.

Three forecasts for the sector

  • I think a mega trend coming out of COVID is the return of the pendulum swing to all things local. I believe that we will continue to fall out of love with unsustainable, impersonal brands that do nothing for the planet or our communities, and will increasingly want to shop, eat, work and live local. Technology advancements mean we no longer need centralisation or economies of scale for efficiency and so I think we’re on the cusp of a very interesting–and long overdue–local renaissance.
  • According to the UN, humanity’s demand for water is going to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030. Given that water is critical, and an enormous component of the global food industry, I think we’ll see a burst of innovation looking too much, much better utilise our precious water resources.
  • I’m hopeful that regenerative agriculture will unlock much, much more research and investment, and so play a critical role in helping us to reinvent our food and drink systems.

November 2021