Although about 10% of the world’s population goes hungry every year – nearly 830 million people, according to Action Against Hunger – it’s not for lack of food. More than enough food is produced to feed the global population.
The problem is that food is not produced or distributed equally around the world, and much of the food that is produced goes to waste.
Roughly one-third of all food produced globally ends up not being eaten, according to Project Drawdown, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group. Much of the waste occurs in the supply chain, with 40% of that coming at the retail level. This is mainly because food is rejected due to bumps, bruises, and coloring, or simply because of poor ordering and inventory management.
One company that aims to solve the latter problem is Afresh Technologies, a San Francisco-based tech firm that offers an AI-powered Fresh Operating System to help grocers reduce food waste. The system offers solutions for forecasting food needs as well as managing inventory, orders, and store operations. Retailers use the technology to view their inventory and more accurately predict the foods that consumers will buy. Afresh claims its operating system is the first built specifically for fresh produce.
The company was founded in 2017.
In just five years it has already forged partnerships with grocery chains that collectively operate more than 3,000 stores across 40 states, including Albertsons, WinCo Foods, Heinen’s, Save Mart, and Bashas’. Its mission is not only to reduce food waste but also to contribute to a healthier planet.
“Food, more so than anything else, shapes the health of people and our planet,” said Afresh CEO and co-founder Matt Schwartz. “We founded Afresh with the purpose of eliminating food waste and making nutritious food more accessible.”
Afresh is poised to make an even bigger impact following a Series B funding round that raised $115 million. The round, announced in August, was led by Spark Capital and also included participation from Insight Partners, VMG Partners, and Bright Pixel Capital. Walter Robb, senior executive partner at S2G Ventures and former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, also joined the round. The round brought Afresh’s total funding to $148 million.
Proceeds will go toward helping Afresh expand its customer base and hit its target of serving 10% of U.S. grocery stores by the end of 2022. Those plans include rolling out to more than 2,300 Albertsons stores by the end of the year. The company also aims to expand its Fresh Operating System to new categories such as meat and bakery.
“The transformative results that Afresh provides are not only seen in grocers’ bottom lines but also extend to the impact on our planet through the reduction of food waste,” said Spark Capital General Partner Will Reed. “We’re proud to support Afresh through their next stage of growth as they continue on their mission to curb climate change and improve our ability to feed the world in healthy ways.”
Afresh says its system helps clients cut food waste by 25% or more.
This not only bolsters the national food supply but also helps grocers improve their profitability – something that has taken on added importance in 2022 amid a surge in food prices.
Most of the food that gets wasted ends up in landfills, where it generates emissions and contributes to climate change. As Bloomberg reported, food waste produces an estimated 8% of all human-caused greenhouse gasses.
One way to cut down on waste, especially at the retail level, is to improve the way businesses order and use food – which is exactly what Afresh’s system is designed to do. While it might be a challenge to get rid of food waste altogether, some experts say it’s well within reach.
“It’s legitimate to think we can get to zero food waste in grocery stores,” Emily Broad-Leib, director at Harvard University’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, told Bloomberg in an interview.