Cool Businesses Innovation

Got food waste? Get rid of what you don’t need with OLIO

photo credit: Oxford Times

From leftover pizza to overflowing gardens, we’ve all had extra food that we know someone else would eat. Without a way to donate or sell it, we end up throwing it out. But now there is a solution: a new app called OLIO aims to connect people with extra food to neighbors who are glad to have it.

Food waste is a $160 billion problem

According to data from 2010, the Department of Agriculture estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is discarded every year. That’s a shocking 133 billion pounds of food thrown away by homes, restaurants and businesses, which totals over $160 billion dollars of waste.

 (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

(Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

And this food waste is more than an economic issue- it has environmental consequences as well. Food waste is the single largest component in municipal landfills, where it generates methane that clogs the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

Enter OLIO

Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook, Co-Founders of OLIO. Photo credit: OLIO

Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook, Co-Founders of OLIO. Photo credit: OLIO

OLIO is a new app developed by two Stanford Graduate School of Business alums- Tessa Cook and Saasha Celestial-One– who are passionate about using mobile technology to reduce food waste.

After Stanford, Tessa returned to her native UK and recruited Saasha to help her launch the OLIO app in 2015. They piloted OLIO in North London last summer, spread it UK wide at the end of January, and launched OLIO in the United States and around the world in June.

Why has OLIO grown so fast? Simply put, OLIO addresses a problem that people want to resolve- how to get rid of leftover food without throwing it away.  This news story on ITV explains why the app is popular in the UK and 38 other countries.

How OLIO works

After setting up a profile on the app, users (either consumers or businesses) simply snap a picture of the items they don’t need, set a price (optional- many items are fee), and post them on OLIO. Neighbors who have signed up with OLIO will receive a olio-mockup-edited-holdingnotification when items are posted and can request anything that they want or need.  Pick-up then takes place at the home/store, an OLIO Drop Box, or another agreed-upon location.

Only items that have been requested can be put in the OLIO drop boxes to prevent dumping and keep everything fresh.

To see the OLIO app in action, check out this video.

A hit in the UK

OLIO‘s initial results in the UK are impressive. The OLIO app has has been downloaded over 80,000 times, selected as a “Best new app” in the App Store three times, and used over 350,000 times to enable over 100,000 items to be shared.

In OLIO’s original launch area, over 85% of items posted by users are requested, many within a matter of minutes. Over 4,000 people have signed up to be an OLIO ‘ambassadors,’ spreading the word about the app and helping people learn how to use it.

OLIO now available in Palo Alto 

OLIO’s Bay Area launch is being managed by Palo Alto-based ‘city manager’ John Loughrin. An experienced tech entrepreneur who is also committed to reducing food waste, John explained that OLIO is ideal for people with extra food as well as for neighbors looking to save time or money:

“The rule of OLIO is if you would eat it, it’s good to be posted. That means people post all kinds of food, from from extra garden produce to leftover pizza.”

OLIO has raised funding from venture capital and has a revenue-based business model where it takes a percentage fee for the items that are sold on the app (vs. posted for free). OLIO also lets people give away or sell non food items such as furniture, although that part of the business is just getting started.

Learn more about OLIO and start reducing your food waste today!

Visit the app store on your mobile phone (Android or Apple) to download OLIO and get started. And if you’re interested in learning more or becoming an OLIO ambassador, contact hello@olioex.com.

Love this story? Subscribe to Palo Alto Pulse and don’t miss a beat (it’s free!)

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.