It's late in the evening, you've been out all day. You're hungry, tired, and have no idea what's in your fridge. Sound familiar? The app MealSaver can help you scoop up lovely restaurant food wherever you may be in Berlin, save yourself some hard-earned cash and be part of a growing movement to combat food waste.
New Berlin start-up MealSaver has recently launched an app that allows you to find local restaurants, bakeries, food outlets with freshly produced food left unsold, which you can then buy online at a fraction of the price, before collecting it.
The scheme allows the food businesses that have signed-up (some one hundred and twenty of them at the time of writing) to sell otherwise unsold meals at a discounted price, helping them to cut down on their food waste, and their food waste management costs too.
Why Meal Saver?
The figures on food waste are familiar to most: according to FAO, about one third of all food produced globally ends up in the bin. In developing countries, where most of the food wastage occurs, of this one third, half is wasted is through retailers and consumers. Indeed, the study finds that, at 222 million tonnes, food waste at consumer level in industrialised countries is almost as high as the total net food production in sub-Saharan Africa, 230 million tonnes.
Whether at the farm level, when fruit and veggies are deemed too ugly for the market, or whether at the supermarket, with questionable 'sell-by' dates leading to loads of perfectly safe food landing in rubbish bins, food waste happens along the entire supply chain. The MealSaver app enables the gastronomy sector and consumers to do their bit to reduce food waste.
So How Does It Work?
Businesses create their own online profile, and as closing time approaches, they upload details about quantities of meals they have left unsold. Users who have downloaded the free app can select an area in the city, and search for available meals from local restaurants. While the exact content of each meal is not specified by the businesses, vegetarian options are made clear. At the moment, businesses include Indian, Mexican, and Sushi restaurants, German, Turkish and Syrian bakeries, and vegan cafes. But as new businesses come on board all the time, the range on offer is growing too.
Once their meal is selected and paid for (prices range from a minimum of one, to a maximum of four Euro per meal), users can collect their surprise food (in biodegradable take-away packaging provided to businesses free of charge by MealSaver), and enjoy their meal in the knowledge that they have rescued some perfectly edible, and possibly delicious, food from landing in the bin.
MealSaver manages the online payments from the customers, and also to the businesses, who receive monthly payments for the meals they have sold through the app.
While the app is designed very clearly with food waste in mind, and is a great tool to empower people to do something tangible about the problem, it is however also a way for users to discover new restaurants and new foods (I personally love the surprise element!), and restaurants too can get potential new customers through their doors, while also showing their existing customers that their business cares about reducing their impact on the environment.
What's Next for MealSaver?
The team is already at work to launch the MealSaver app in Hamburg, Munich, Bochum and Cologne, and is keen to hear from people on the ground in these cities, who may like to get involved, as well as of course from potential businesses and partners.
And in Berlin, on top of continuing to expand its participating businesses base, MealSaver also keeps building bridges with important players in the battle against food waste, such as the Deutsche Tafel, Green Table and the science community.
Alexandra Pipos, from MealSaver, told me that their greatest challenge is raising awareness about food waste, and how delicious it can be. She did however share a very positive fact too: once people try out the initiative, they are hooked!
Well, that leaves only one thing for you to do: check it out for yourself. Simply download the app for iOS here and Android here. Here's a short Q&A with FAO on the issue of food waste: