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The company bringing you half-price groceries just hit a major milestone: 'Our mission is feeding families instead of landfills'

"People should be able to eat well without compromise."

"People should be able to eat well without compromise."

Photo Credit: Flashfood

With food prices up 2% over the past year, grocery shopping is hitting harder on people's wallets and overall satisfaction. 

This is why Flashfood, the app offering nearly expired or imperfect groceries for up to 50% off, has become a social media sensation. Shoppers love to score reduced-price food and share their creations on TikTok or Instagram.

Now, the company has revealed exclusively to The Cool Down that it has hit a huge milestone —  diverting 100 million pounds of food from landfills while saving customers more than $250 million on groceries and delivering 83 million meals across North America.  

Flashfood CEO Nicholas Bertram talked to The Cool Down about what it took to get to this major milestone, how the company is combating food insecurity alongside food waste, and what an expiration date actually means.

🌱 Big ideas grow quickly

Less than two years ago, Flashfood hit the 50 million-pound milestone for food diverted from landfills. It's doubled that impact as of today.

"Our mission is feeding families instead of landfills," Bertram told us. "And that's all because we think that people should be able to eat well without compromise. You shouldn't have to pick between paying bills or you shouldn't have to pick ultra-processed food … when there's good, fresh, wholesome food that's available that many are just throwing away because they don't have a good spot for it." 

This means those 100 million pounds of food are no longer in landfills — they're "in people's stomachs."

"We could not be any happier about that," Bertram said.

😅 The thrill of the deal

When Flashfood started in 2016, its mission was to reduce food waste. But what the team has learned is that "super users" are in it for the deals and the creativity — especially on TikTok.

"They get to have the thrill of preparing it, they get to have the fun of looking at recipes," said Bertram. "There's a lot of really creative people that look forward to figuring out, what are the mystery ingredients going to be in whatever they're preparing for their families? And then how much were they able to save in cash, and how much were they able to save and divert from being thrown away.

"I personally get inspiration because I enjoy cooking for my family," Bertram told TCD. "My wife and I have five little boys. They can eat a lot. So Flashfood is personally important, not just professionally important. And it's just fun … to see what you can create."

🥕 Hot items, healthy items

"The most popular item by far is fruit and veg," Bertram said. "A produce manager will go through in the mornings and they'll call out all of the different items that may have a slight imperfection, or maybe don't look good enough to be out there — those get into these bulk [produce] boxes and the consumer gets to see a picture of those actually. … Usually they're $5, depending on which retailer it is."

@foodisyourbudi Is it a shallot or just an onion??? 🧐🧐 #mysterybox #flashfood #produce #unboxing ♬ greedy - Tate McRae

💡 Your lightbulb moment?

"I started working as a part-time dairy associate … and really fell in love with the food industry and retail in general," he said. Eventually, Bertram worked his way up to running the Giant Company, a major grocery chain on the East Coast. 

"And throughout all of that, it bothered me that we were throwing things away. It bothered me from a financial standpoint, as an operator. You don't want to spend money on something that can be avoided. … You don't want to order too much. You also don't want to order too little, and so you're always trying to get better at that."

📅 The 411 on expiration dates

"In general, anything that is posted on the app … will be available up until the day that the best-before date is on there," Bertram noted. "But like most people, I smell the product, I look at the product, and … just because there's a date stamped on there does not necessarily mean that it's not safe for consumption."

According to the USDA, "best-before" or "best-by" is the last date when a product will taste the best or be in the best shape. And even then, it's still not a food safety label.

"I do think that there's an opportunity to simplify dates," he said, "but there's nothing that's on [the app] that is going to be expired." While the grocery stores Flashfood partners with have different procedures for what to do with food that actually is expired, Flashfood encourages them to donate as much as possible.

⁉️ What would surprise people most about food waste?

"A positive surprise is that a retailer hates food waste even more than an environmentalist does. Nobody wants to waste. In fact, if you're running a grocery store, your profit margins are so thin, pennies literally matter."

But on the flip side, Bertram knows "you never want to have too little … so you're always going to have a little bit more, and nobody wants to waste that."

As Bertram sees it, grocers are "just looking for better options," which is one reason Flashfood recently became B Corp certified — meaning that while it's still a for-profit company, it's independently confirmed to be doing business to make a positive social impact. In this case, that impact is helping grocers trim costs and reduce waste while helping shoppers save money and preventing food from ending up in landfills.

💪 This win-win-win also combats food insecurity 

These days, it's hard to find food that has a price label starting with a one, so getting good deals on quality food is crucial. Those cost savings are especially important to Flashfood — one in five Flashfood shoppers said they were experiencing food insecurity as of 2022.

And while Flashfood isn't the only food surplus company out there fighting food insecurity and reducing food waste at the same time, something that Bertram believes sets this startup apart is "the realism to it." 

"We take actual photographs [of products]," he said. "You don't have to guess what's going to be in there. … You're going to know what you get, which is important when you're planning a meal."

🛣️ Milestones help pave the way for others

Reaching 100 million pounds of food waste diverted from landfills is an important milestone for the Flashfood team — but they didn't get there alone. 

"I'm really proud of our retail partners for doing something that's making a literal difference, not just globally, but in the local community because the grocery store is … still that town square," Bertram said. "It's still that place that people are going to come to, especially in the rural and suburban communities. You just trust a grocer.

"Collective impact happens when you see lots of people making small changes to accomplish something. … We are very encouraged by the response so far and are working really hard to be able to meet the demand that's showing up."

Anna Robertson conducted the interview for The Cool Down. 

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