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Leading up to the launch of the Digital Retail Innovations 2018 Report (sponsored by Webloyalty) a series of Q&A’s with the leading figures behind some of the key entries in the report are being published.

Here is a Q&A with Charlotte Aschim, co-founder of TotalCtrl, which will feature in this year’s report for its work with Handleriet and other retailers.

1. How did the original idea come about? 

After working in a grocery store during my studies I witnessed tremendous amounts of food being wasted. Fully edible food thrown away due to expiration dates. To sell the items instead of having to throw them away, I created a product logbook sorted by the expiration date giving the grocery store total control over inventory based on expiration dates. After figuring out that most of the food waste, in industrial countries, is on consumer and retail level due to overproduction and expiration date my co-founder, Ingrid Østby, and I decided to start TotalCtrl.

TotalCtrl developed 0-waste™ technology, a food waste reduction technology for the grocery industry and its consumers, enabling them to achieve total control over product expiration dates, save time and money, reduce food waste, and facilitate smarter buying decisions. In time, the technology will be usable throughout the entire value chain – from producer to consumer.

TotalCtrl co-founder and CEO Charlotte Aschim

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

The online grocery stores are making it easier for their customers, the consumers, to plan, buy, and to use food. Basically, combining a purchase app with our 0-waste solutions giving the consumer faster, fresher food. You choose food based on product range and/or recipes, pay and get your groceries delivered to your door. Then the fun begins and the solution we have developed. When you get your items delivered to the door, these will automatically be included in your own inventory. Sorted by expiration date with an alert option, so you’ll remember to use your food before it turns bad. Based on what you have in your inventory, recipes will automatically be generated so that you can use what you already have at home before purchasing more groceries.

With notifications and auto-generating recipes, the consumer will use better and buy smarter, and the retailer will reduce waste by selling faster and fresher food, making the store more profitable. Improved inventory control, hence reducing purchasing expenses and streamlining sales, are just some of the benefits that our solution offers.

3. What about competition in this area?

There are more and more companies trying to find solutions to food waste reduction, and that’s good. So far most of the solutions are focused on redistributing or selling food that has already expired. What makes us unique, compared to our competitors, is that our technology is based on automatic data harvesting, which seamlessly integrates into existing infrastructures. We replace the manual work with technology. For the grocery industry and consumers our 0-waste technology is a game-changer, which provides multi-level automated tracking of inventory based on expiration dates.

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

To start with we wanted to build a tool and technology that would help the store managers in the grocery industry. We wanted to help them save time, money and reduce food waste. After our marked research in January 2017 we found that the biggest contributor to our problem, food waste, was consumers. The main reasons for food waste at consumer level was, and still is, lack of knowledge of the meaning of expiration dates, control over own inventory and creativity on what to make out of what they already have at home.

We tested different solutions with friends, family, partners and customers. We found out that there was an interest in inventory control, recipes automatically generated based on what they have at home and notification prior to expiration date. We then develop what we called TotalCtrl Consumer. We quickly found out that the TotalCtrl Consumer app sold directly to the consumer was something that we would not make money on. We had to figure out a way to make this a business. So, we thought “how can we best combine TotalCtrl Consumer’s functionalities, make an impact on several levels in the value chain by reducing food waste, and make money doing it?” Answer: We contacted an online grocery store in Norway, Handleriet, that only used a website to sell groceries, and we offered to make a purchase app combined with our 0-waste solutions. Now, we are able to seamlessly connect our solutions to already existing apps, loyalty programs and internal infrastructure thereby helping both the online grocery stores and consumers reduce food waste.

The app in action

5. Have there been any surprises along the way?

What still manages to surprise us is the amount of manual work in the value chain that can and should be replaced by technology. The potential for replacement and optimisation is huge.

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

TotalCtrl will be the leading player for reduction of food waste throughout the entire value chain. From farmer-to-consumer. The problem of food waste is a big problem globally and the potential for solutions is huge. It is no longer a nice-to-solve problem, it is a must-solve problem. In five years we want our technology to be used all over the world so that in 20 years “our children get to grow up in a world without any food waste”. Just imagine a future where you’re ‘totally in control’ of what you eat and what you chuck.

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

Ocado and its technology is one of the innovators we most admire.

Glynn Davis, Editor, Retail Insider 

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