“Buy, Bye Food, Hello Happiness!”
Tackling the challenge of reducing food wastage is the aim of founders Sahil Shukla and Marshal Al-Moften. Launched at Imperial in 2018, Snaxchange provides an online platform enabling users to sell food and beverages purchased from superstores and corner shops at a discounted rate, to users willing to buy them at a discounted rate ahead of the ‘best before’ date.
An FTMBA alumnus of 2015, we spoke with founder and owner Sahil Shukla, to better understand this exciting initiative in the fight against food wastage.
Sahil had spent time since completing his studies at Imperial exploring social initiatives and understanding the UK market. He was aware of the huge food wastage problem in the UK, with improper demand forecasts causing 5m tonnes of fresh food to be dumped each year, equating to £5 billion.
Thanks to his own experiences and background, Sahil was aware that in other countries such as India, it is commonplace among well-knit communities to share food with others, and following a conversation at a bar on campus in London, he discussed the notion of exchanging leftover food due to be wasted for money. Following this, he began to explore whether donating food for a good cause was a good enough incentive for the general public, and wondered whether exchanging food would be a viable idea.
Sahil was well placed to begin his research. Using his contacts within the university sector he could begin targeting young academics and students, who are often less good at forecasting food demand when they move to a new town/country, resulting in foods reaching their ‘sell by date’ and being considered to be expired and thus thrown away.
Developing this idea further, Sahil decided to make the initiative appealing to users by enabling sellers to recover some of the expenses on food and beverages as an alternative to dumping food and beverages as waste. Moreover, the buyer will get food and beverages at discounted rates for immediate consumption. All food items and beverages which cannot be sold by the stipulated ‘best before’ date will be passed on to Food Banks of partnering NPOs at no, or minimal costs just before the expiry date for immediate consumption.
This provides a three-tier consumption ecosystem, providing three opportunities for each food item to be consumed: first, by the primary consumer who bought it from the Superstore or the Corner Shop; second, by the Secondary Consumer who bought it from the Primary Consumer via Snaxchange and; third, by the tertiary consumers who would source food from Food Banks of Partnering Charitable Organisations that receive donated food from Primary Consumers.
This will create an ecosystem that will ensure efficient food consumption and minimise food and beverage wastage. Further, by ensuring that only packaged and sealed food items and beverages are sold via the platform, health and safety of buyers will be ensured. The financial transaction will be completed via the Snaxchange system only after the buyer confirms that the sold items are of desirable and advertised quality and quantity.
Inevitably there are challenges with an endeavour like this, such as the tech space evolving quickly – both Sahil and his partner Marshal are from IT backgrounds, but faced with the very advanced apps of Uber (for example), there is a real need for investment so that they can keep up with trends. They are also looking at how the team can better reach out to the masses, keeping in mind their target audience, and how to implement change management to bring about new/improved practices and encourage users and the wider public to stop wasting food.
“Food is the only thing we don’t know how to dispose of properly, and there is a huge difference between ‘sell by date’ and ‘expiry date’. It will take time to change the mindset of people, but we hope to convince the younger generation not to dump food so quickly. If we only improve this by 15 – 20% it is still significant”.
With a focus on keeping the initiative sustainable, the team have kept the platform simple, so you buy and sell in one place. The website is secure and GDPR compliant, the interaction is free, and creates a free market economy, so the idea will self-sustain.
Snaxchange is already receiving interest from European markets and angel investors; social media is showing huge traction already, they were interviewed by ‘The StartUp Van’ for YouTube, and a crowd funding campaign was launched in June 2018. The next phase will be to reach out to wider universities and corporates at Canary Wharf with a view to recruiting ‘business ambassadors’ to help spread the word.
They are demonstrating clear impact since its launch, saving £2,000 of food wastage in June 2018 alone. The team are currently focusing on marketing, including making improvements to the app and user interface.