When Josh Domingues’ sister was catering a Toronto event as a chef, she was told to throw out $4,000 worth of food by her boss. Upset, she called her brother, but wasn’t given any alternative options.
The problem pushed Domingues to learn more about food waste — how it ends up in a landfill and rots in an anaerobic state, producing methane gas; and how grocery stores throw food out anywhere from three days to a month before its best before date.
Just over a year later, Domingues, a former VP at an investment firm, has launched Flashfood with Longo’s at Bay and Dundas in Toronto. The platform allows grocery stores and restaurants to sell surplus at a discount, as shoppers receive a notification on their phone about deals in the area. Users can pay for the food through their phone and pick it up anytime that day at the grocery store’s Flashfood pick up zone.
“This is a very challenging problem that we’re solving. Not only are we creating a completely new stream of revenue for the retailer while collectively reducing the amount of food they’re tossing; we’ve also provided our users the ability to purchase a significant amount of their groceries at a reduced price — making food more affordable. All while reducing the harmful GHG emissions produced by surplus food,” said Domingues.
The company ran a pilot with London-based Farm Boy in January, and said that they’ve diverted over 1,200 meals from a landfill, while allowing customers to buy food at a 40 to 60 percent discount.
“Food insecurity is usually thought in parallel with homelessness or severe poverty in third world countries. But that’s just not the case. University today is more expensive than it’s ever been, as is daycare and the overall cost of life. More and more people are falling into the category of the ‘working poor,” said Domingues. “Economically, this means someone who is living pay check to pay check. This is the initial demographic that our platform will most immediately benefit. Once we can prove to major retailers the demand for the mass market and the multiple benefits to our retailer partners, then we can address more areas of food insecurity. This is only the first step. The beginning is beautiful.”