Digital Leisure and Hospitality Innovations Q&A: Karma

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Following the launch of our 2018 ‘Digital Leisure and Hospitality Innovations top 20’ report, here is a Q&A with Elsa Bernadotte, co-founder of Karma, which features in this year’s report for its app focused on food waste reduction.

1. How did the original idea come about?

A staggering ⅓ of all food produced is thrown away which results in an average of 1.3 billion tonnes of waste each year. For an industry where even a 0.01% inefficiency can leak tonnes of waste, there needed to be a safety net for when and where surplus does occur. In November 2016 we started Karma under the vision of “building technology to make positive impact both rewarding and profitable.” We help food retailers to reduce their food waste while tapping into their full potential by selling it to conscientious customers at a reduced cost.

2. What has been the level of take-up of the service and what are the key ways retailers are using it?

In Sweden, where we started Karma, over 1,000 food businesses are using the app to reduce food waste, increase revenue and reach new customers. These businesses include restaurants and cafes, caterers (inc. Compass Group), hotels (inc. Scandic) and, of course, retailers. Karma’s Swedish team have partnerships with every major grocery retailer including ICA, Hemköp and Coop.

This year, the UK plays host to Karma’s second market and we will focus on bringing in major retailers to sign up to the service. Since the launch in London in February we have already connected over 400 restaurants and cafes to our service, including Aquavit, Polpo and Aubaine.

Karma co-founder : Elsa Bernadotte

3. What about competition in this area?

We’re not the first to commit to tackling this issue but evidence proves that redistributing surplus food is no easy feat and where others have failed Karma is now leading the way. This is partly due to the strategic diligence of the company’s expansion plan; we won’t launch into a market until we can guarantee both supply of and demand for food. And secondly due to Karma being tech-driven to its core; we continuously improve the app for both businesses and individuals. Karma has to date helped save 190 tonnes of food from ending up in the bin.

4. How has the solution been developed / advanced over time?

By working so closely with the food industry, we have taken the time to understand the strains and pressures that the retailers are under and has adapted the product accordingly. The app is tailored for busy store staff, barely adding seconds to existing waste routines, with a resource and revenue pay off in the long run.

For the 380,000 users, the app incorporates features such as opt-in push notifications and dietary search options meaning you can explore exciting food in your local area and never miss a bargain! For the conscientious consumer it’s a practical way to contribute to a movement and for foodies on a budget it’s a great way to discover all that the city can offer.

5.Have there been any surprises along the way?

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the eagerness of the food industry to adopt new technology and the enthusiasm to address sustainability issues. It’s the people who work in food – the shop-owners, the chefs and the staff – who are the ones who hate to throw food away the most, so we’re always welcomed with open arms!

Cutting food waste makes everyone happy

6. What can we expect from Karma in the future?

London is the real focus for Karma at the moment. The city has one of the best food scenes in the world, a high number of food retailers who care about sustainability, and consumers who are both digitally native and environmentally-conscious, we think it’s a perfect match for a solution like Karma. London, however, is only the beginning. Food waste is a global problem and we intend on being the global solution.

7.Do you have any recommendations for entries in the next Digital Retail Innovations report?

There are so many exciting and innovative developments in the retail market. One which stands out is the product transparency app, Provenance. It feeds into the global movement of sustainability and accountability in the retail sphere, which Karma is also very proud to be part of.

Glynn Davis, Editor, Retail Insider 

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