Olio: social good, but also chocolate penises
Tessa had a problem on her hands. She was moving to the UK. Her bags were packed, but she still had food in the fridge. She didn’t want it to go to waste, so she knocked on her neighbour’s doors to see if they would take it. No one answered.
So she took her food with her to the airport.
Wanting a better solution to this problem, Tessa got to work along with co-founder, Saasha Celestial-One. In the early days, they used WhatsApp to pull together groups of people committed to sharing their leftover food to prevent waste. They named the project Olio, which is the Italian word that means a recipe that pulls together all your leftovers to make a dish.
Once they proved their concept, they hired a company to make her an app (in exchange for equity in the company).
The idea for the app is straightforward. It connects together neighbours so they can alert each other when they have extra food. People can browse, request and collect food.
In the UK, a lot of people hate food waste but ⅓ of food still gets wasted. If there were less food waste, we would have less hunger, less methane from decaying landfill, and more money. Food waste is worth 1 trillion dollars a year, which equals 1.3% of the total US GDP. This means that solving the problem is not only a social good, but also a financial good — and that’s the sweet spot for social entrepreneurship.
Users call Olio the Tinder of food, because you can meet so many people. The intangible benefit of Olio is that it can lead to a significant increase in neighbourhood cohesion, which has knock-on effects including safety, personal well-being, and productivity. And 15% of users have reported trying a new food as a result of finding it on the app, which indicates that Olio could have an effect on integrating different ethnic and national groups together as well.
Plus, there’s the sheer entertainment value of using Olio. “It’s very random, the stuff that comes up.” Since the app runs on people sharing whatever food items they don’t want. “We have had giant roasted ants, and chocolate penises,” says Anne-Charlotte Mornington. Anna is an ambassador of Olio, and she came to speak to our Stockholm Food Meetup group in September.
Why anyone would want to give those away, I can’t imagine.
So how are they doing so far? 80,000 people have downloaded the app, and 65,000 of these are active user accounts (which means they give and take food). Currently there are over 350 ambassadors who help spread word about this new solution for food waste in the UK.
Their next step is to release an update. This version will allow people to donate money to food charities through the app. Olio will take a commission in order to stay solvent. Solvency is definitely important — you can’t do much good if you can’t sustain yourself doing it.
We hosted Olio’s ambassador, Anne-Charlotte Mornington, at our bi-weekly Stockholm Food Movement meetup on September 8th, and she picked up several new users for the app among our group of people committed to food sustainability. Our next meetup is on Thursday, September 22nd. Join us!