Co-op and Microsoft to launch platform to tackle food waste

The Co-op supermarket and technology giant Microsoft this week (8 June) unveiled a digital platform designed to enable supermarkets, cafes and restaurants to redistribute surplus food.

Caboodle aims to create a place where the hospitality sector can connect with volunteers and community groups (picture: Co-op)

Dubbed ‘Caboodle’, the not-for-profit platform aims to create a place where food retailers and businesses across the hospitality sector can connect with community groups, helping to share food “when and where it is needed”.

Caboodle is designed to be used by multiple retailers. The Co-op says the platform will allow retailers to share their surplus food online daily in “an easier and more cost-effective way”, using live notifications to alert charities when slots are available.

Charities and community groups of all kinds will be able to “save time”, the Co-op says, by booking and scheduling slots and gaining access to volunteers via a digital noticeboard.

Currently being trialled at the Co-op’s food stores in Northern Ireland, Milton Keynes and London, the platform goes live across a further 2,500 food stores next month.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, the Co-op’s interim CEO, said: “The amount of good quality surplus food that’s not currently being redistributed is astounding.

“We’re currently trialling Caboodle in over 100 food stores and the results we’re seeing so far are incredible.

“We’ll be rolling it out across our entire estate next month and hope that all other retailers and businesses within hospitality will see the benefit too.”

Food waste

Around 1.1 million tonnes of food – worth £4 billion – goes to waste across the food retail and hospitality sector in the UK each year, according to resources charity WRAP.

Innovations like Caboodle can help to overcome common barriers and ease redistribution of surplus food

– Estelle Herszenhorn, food lead at WRAP

Of this, only 80,000 tonnes of edible surplus food is shared with charities and community groups in the UK, the Co-op says, leaving an estimated 200,000 tonnes going to waste.

The Co-op hopes Caboodle will “encourage” the creation of new food charities by making surplus food “readily available for sharing”.

Welcoming the platform’s launch, Estelle Herszenhorn, food lead at WRAP, said: “Surplus food redistribution has been a success story over recent years. Three hundred and twenty thousand tonnes of food was saved from going to waste between 2015 and 2020 worth £1 billion, and providing the equivalent of 220 million meals. But much more good food is still going to waste that could feed people.

“Innovations like Caboodle that can help to overcome common barriers and ease redistribution of surplus food are really exciting and have the potential to make serious inroads into the 200,000 tonnes that WRAP estimates could still be redistributed.”

Caboodle

Technology consultancy BJSS and Team ITG have “supported” founding partners Co-op and Microsoft in the creation of Caboodle, which is built on Microsoft’s Power Platform technology.

The Co-op says the platform is being trialled with support from environmental charity Hubbub through the Community Fridge Network.

Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub, said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the development of Caboodle by providing insight from communities and trialling the platform with our Milton Keynes Community Fridge.”

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