I am perfect food is a young Barcelona startup here to help solve a global problem that is everyone’s concern, but hardly anyone talks about: food waste. Their intention is to try and fight food waste on as many fronts as possible, and they’ve got a bunch of brilliant ideas that they’ve started putting into practice.
As the initial step of what is to be a long journey, they’ve created the first online supermarket in Spain that sells products that would otherwise be wasted. I am perfect food recovers food with imperfections – such as products that have damaged packaging, are close to the expiration or best before date, and so-called “ugly food” – and sells them at discount prices to reduce food waste and help you save money.
Their most important goal however is to educate people about food waste and raise consciousness so we can all make better decisions and find new ways to reduce food waste. We caught up with I am perfect food Founder Desiree Taboada, and she shared with us everything about how she started her project, how people respond, how she’s planning to give back to society and what inspired her to become a social entrepreneur.
The Problem with Food Waste
Each year, we waste one third of the food that we produce. That’s 1.3 billion tonnes of perfectly edible food that’s lost during production or harvest, destroyed in transportation, not bought in supermarkets or thrown out by us in our homes. Think about how many people we could feed if that food could somehow be redistributed (around 2 billion, which is more than double the number of undernourished in the world)! Not to mention the environmental impact. Food waste is actually the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s responsible for the same amount of C02 produced by one fifth of all the cars in the world.
We Can All Help
Desiree experienced first-hand the problem that food waste was causing on an industrial level when she worked at a trade marketing company in her native Peru for ten years. She saw companies having to destroy crazy amounts of food because the expiration date was nearing or the packaging was damaged.
No one is innocent when it comes to food waste. We have all thrown away food at some point, be that an untouched loaf of bread that went stale on us or half a head of broccoli that we’d gotten bored of and forgot to put in the freezer. There are lots of different ways to avoid wasting food at home, but somehow it’s just not on our list of priorities.
“The problem is that our day-to-day lives don’t always give us the opportunity to think about what options we have when it comes to saving food. That’s why we try to encourage people to find new ways of reducing food waste,” Desiree says. For example, we can all start simple habits that don’t require much effort – like going to the supermarket with a shopping list in hand and making less impulsive decisions so we don’t end up buying more food than we need.
The online supermarket that Desiree and her business partner Natalia Escolà have created is one way to establish these good habits. Their app allows users to order imperfect food products for up to 80% off and have them delivered. They always state clearly the date of expiration or the type of damage that the product has suffered, so you know exactly what you’re buying.
“We started our first pilot in Castelldefels with the participation of 40 people. Our goal was to get feedback and see if the users are enjoying our service. In March, we officially kicked off in Barcelona, but we only deliver in Eixample for now. We hope to start offering delivery to the rest of Barcelona starting in June,” Desiree explains. “So far the feedback has been great – our customers are very grateful, and they’re very patient with us, always sending us messages about what they like and what we could improve.”
Desiree believes that Barcelona, apart from being a great place to start a startup, is home to a lot of people that are open to joining their cause.
“Barcelona is a city where people are very concerned about their quality of life and the environment. They’re constantly working to make their lives better. They try to make conscious decisions like riding bicycles, buying local products and recycling. And that’s why it’s a good place for us to make the connection between reducing food waste and saving money for yourself,” she says.
From a Garage Store to an Online Supermarket
When she was a child, Desiree would never have thought that she’d be following in her mother’s footsteps who ran a small store from their garage in Peru.
“She worked there every single day, and my four siblings and I would help her out. I remember how much I hated having to sit there as a child! [Laughs.] It’s funny because now I’m doing the same as my mom: the difference is that the store I’m running is online,” she recounts.
Desiree is one of those people that are simply meant to carry through a project that society will benefit from. She’s always had it in her. At age 9, she started a small organization in her school so she and her friends could help the children living in a nearby orphanage whose parents had been killed in terrorist attacks in Peru.
The empathy she learned from her parents, and the horrific events that unfolded around her during the era of terrorism inspired her to want to do something good, to help the community in some way.
“When you grow up seeing people dying around you, and you know that it could happen to you or your family any time, you start looking at life in a different way. I always say that the Peruvian people are survivors. We are fighters. We’re always trying to find a way to have a better life,” she says.
Combating food waste is the project that she’s been searching for.
Fighting Against Food Waste Equals Fighting Against World Hunger
“The only way we can fight is if we see the big picture. But we need to stand up and move. It’s like a word game where you have to connect the letters to find words. If you look at it from one side of the table, you can find a word. But if you look at it from another side, you’ll see another word. It depends on the perspective. And everyone can do something,” Desiree explains.
For Desiree, selling cheap food in an online supermarket is an opportunity to raise awareness about the problem of food waste. I am perfect food also work with schools, talking to kids about food waste – and hoping that they will spread the message back home. They’re building relationships with industry stakeholders like supermarkets, restaurants, organizations and communities. But according to Desiree, the ideal situation would be if she would just close the company and convert it into a 100% social project.
“We are fighting against food waste, and in the meantime, in other parts of the world, people die of starvation. It’s not fair. So when we start making a profit, our intention is to give a part of it to NGOs that are fighting world hunger. That’s how we’d like to balance overproduction in some parts of the world and undernourishment in others. We have a lot of ideas about how we could create a circular economy. And we really think that if we work together, it’s possible,” Desiree concludes.