Startup 'FoodMaven' Aims To Cut Food Waste, Gets Backed By Wal-Mart

$200 billion worth of food is tossed away annually in the U.S. alone, and FoodMaven wants to end that trend. They're looking to expand from Colorado to other urban areas, and they've received a significant boost from the Walton family.


May 24 2019, Updated 7:57 a.m. ET

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Waste has been an accepted norm in the food industry with businesses anticipating those costs. A new startup from Colorado, FoodMaven, wants to change that by turning potential waste into something useful. Walton Enterprises, who own 50 percent of Wal-Mart, sees the potential and is looking to enhance the process by funding the new company.

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In total, FoodMaven received $8.6 million in “Series A fundraising” and included an undisclosed amount from the Walton family according to Bloomberg. Their enterprise is worth around $150 billion and would easily be the biggest supporter for the startup. Patrick Bultema, CEO of FoodMaven, didn’t believe there would be any direct ties with Wal-Mart as they mostly work with suppliers.

How does this process fully work to lower food waste? FoodMaven buys excess food that would otherwise be tossed away. They’ll also take food that has cosmetic problems with it, such as products with incorrect wording or it may not be structurally appealing for consumers. The recovered items are then resold to other buyers, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and hospitals at a discounted rate.

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“The industry has accepted waste as a cost of doing business” Bultema told Bloomberg. “We’re making pathways that don’t exist in the food system.” Approximately $200 billion worth of food is tossed out annually in the United States alone. While that figure doesn’t look as big when divided up by numerous suppliers in the country, it’s an eye-popping cost when combined.

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FoodMaven has built their portfolio up rapidly from their launch in July 2016, now working with 700 customers in Colorado. They’re looking to expand to other large metro areas in the United States. Even if they buy too much food as they expand, the company has a process of donating what they can’t sell. After all, it’s pretty silly to throw away food that’s still consumable.

Wal-Mart’s backing of the startup would also go a long way in improving their own image. Considering the vast number of supersized locations and the growing trend of selling groceries at the department store chain, we’d expect a lot waste being generated.

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In 2016, the CBC investigated two Wal-Mart stores in Toronto and found large amounts of food and beverages that were thrown away well before the sell-by date, including “Parmesan cheese with months left.” Most of the items still looked fresh, but Wal-Mart responded to the story by saying that it “was unsafe for consumption” and they started locking their garbage bins.

However, Wal-Mart has been adopting more initiatives overall to curb food waste in the last few years. They’ve aimed to standardize their date labels on nonperishable food items under the Great Value brand. They’re also working with local farmers to reuse fruits and vegetables for other purposes that would otherwise not be appealing to consumers, being left to rot in the produce section.

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