Do Consumers Care About Food Waste? New Retail App Will Find Out

Midwestern grocery chain Hy-Vee is testing a new app aimed at reducing food waste, a move the retailer hopes will heighten consumer awareness about one of the planet’s biggest problems.

The Des Moines-based chain has teamed up with Flashfood, a mobile app developed in Canada, that makes it easy to show special deals on meat, dairy and bread that are nearing their “sell-by” date.

And while many stores have long offered breaks on such products in-stores, Flashfood lets people shop via app and pick up their order at a special location with the store. The program is testing at Hy-Vee locations in Madison and Fitchburg, Wisc.

The grocery retailer says it thinks sustainability-motivated shoppers will be eager to do more to keep food out of landfills.

“We believe our customers are concerned with reducing food waste and bettering the environment,” says Tina Potthoff, the chain’s spokesperson, in an email. “When a program like the Flashfood App launched in our three Wisconsin stores, customers started to immediately inquire about how the program worked and what type of difference they would be making."



While mainstream American shoppers have grown increasingly warm to organic foods, “ugly” produce and more sustainable packaging, food waste is less on their radar. Hy-Vee, which says it kept more than 25 million pounds out of landfills last year, says the app will make it easier for consumers to save money and help the environment.

Besides a PR effort and an email campaign, in-store promotions encourage people to “Shop discounted groceries. Minimize food waste. Download the Flashfood app and start saving today.”

Even if consumers are less aware of America’s food waste problem, nonprofit groups are increasingly zeroing in on food inefficiencies. A joint report from Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council recently calculated that about 40% of U.S. food winds up in landfills, and that people throw away $165 billion in wasted food annually.

Retail industry efforts to curb waste include everything from composting their own produce to working more closely with farmers to sharpening technology used to manage inventory.

So far, Flashfood has partnered with five grocery stores in Canada, and says its diverted 100,000 units of food, and that it intends to launch in more stores across the country.

Potthoff tells Marketing Daily the that Hy-Vee will judge the pilot program’s impact by how frequently shoppers use the app, and how well it minimizes each store’s food waste.

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