// MEALSAVER: HOW TO STOP FOOD WASTE WITH AN APP
In this episode, you'll learn more about
- Why a young passionate startup can change something today, while politicians take years
- How gen Y is developing a new price tolerance towards sustainable products
- What the factor 1.3 tells us about the overproduction of food
- The reactions of the food businesses when they hear about the app
- How MealSaver uses the help of its community to develop the app further & why you don’t need to have a perfect product to get started
- Where the (green) Berlin startup scene stands compared to Silicon Valley
LISTEN THE PODCAST INTERVIEW RIGHT HERE:
P.S. You'll find the full interview transcript below
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// MEALSAVER - FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:
Hey fellow Berlin enthusiast, welcome to session no. 7 of the GMB Podcast.
I'm really excited about introducing today’s guest on the podcast: Leo from MealSaver.
MealSaver is a Berlin-based startup that is passionate about stopping food waste in the gastronomy world. How they do that? With an app that helps food businesses to sell their leftovers & helps us to get a tasty meal for very little money - win, win!
I tell you, from the small bakery around the corner to big hotel chains… the amounts of food that are going to waste every single day are mind boggling.
MealSaver only launched in October last year, but what they’ve built up since then is simply amazing. And Leo was such a great person to talk to - he spent time researching about food waste at the uni in Berkely, California & also got the chance to get a taster of the startup community in Silicon Valley.
Make sure to listen up to the end, as Leo made such an AMAZING call out to the world, to you and to everyone who wants to help us changing sth for the better…
But now, without further babbling around - time to get into the show...
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF OUR INTERVIEW
What’s up everyone, I’m so happy to welcome LEO from MealSaver here on the show. Leo, thank you so much for joining us!
Hi Claudi, Thanks for inviting me!
You know, I’ve been so looking forward to having you on the podcast - we’ve been in touch for a while now...
I gotta say, when I first heard of you guys, I thought the idea was brilliant and stopping food waste so important - but I wasn’t 100% sure if people in Berlin would be ready for an app like this yet. But wow, you’ve done SO well to bring that out and get lots and lots people excited about it! Congratulations!
And I can’t wait, cause I know you’ll have some amazing facts and insights to share, on how we can all do our little bit to eat greener, save tons of food from the bins - and even get some great fun and value out of it ourselves.
Now, before I’ll let you explain a bit more about what you do - Tell me about the day when you were working on MealSaver and realized that this is really gonna be something. Like, there’s no way back. Do you remember?
Yep. I think it was the day we launched our app in the app stores, in the google play stores. On that day, we already had a bunch of restaurants who wanted to partner with us. And as we went online and told our friends and everybody on our social media channels - which already existed - that we are now online. That the whole thing is getting started…
That’s when we all had this feeling that there’s no turning back. That there’s only a way forward and getting bigger and stronger - and preventing more food from being wasted.
Sounds exciting. Did it feel almost like a calling? Like this is it, this is how we can really make a contribution out there?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, with every single box, which is given from a restaurant to a consumer, you are already saving on average 1kg of food! Therefore, we can proudly say that we’ve saved a couple of tons of food already.
Wow. That’s really awesome! Okay, and now you can tell me what happened before 🙂 Take us to the start of the MealSaver story. Who came up with it and how did it all happen?
Sure. It was a founding team of 5 people who were working on a similar project under a Danish flag. And this didn’t really work out in Germany because of a couple of circumstances… it is very business oriented. Therefore the team wanted to create something more social, something more sustainable and came up with MealSaver.
They found a social investor, Ananda Ventures, who is now supporting us financially. With these funds, we could get started and create something beautiful what we can work with now.
Great! When did you join the team? Were you in the core team?
I was not in the founding founding team, but I jumped in at a pretty early stage.
I finished my studies and my master’s thesis, which I wrote at uni Berkeley and TU Darmstadt, was on restaurant food waste prevention. During my research - which is still ongoing - I contacted a couple of entrepreneurs, looked what initiatives are there and then we got in touch at a panel… We had a few talks - and I decided to move to Berlin in September last year.
How good! So what is personally your biggest drive to do this - like what makes you jump out of bed each morning & head to the MealSaver office?
Oh, it’s SO many reasons. But let’s say, my main motivation, coming from this field, was definitely that there can be a big change made very easily. This low hanging fruit can be picked really, really easily, without making a big effort.
I think in today’s world, where you see how politicians act, how policies are being implemented… Everything is fine, but everything takes SO much time. And with this kind of startup, it’s really possible to change something today, and not even tomorrow.
Yeah! I can really feel your energy flowing for this. And I agree. Governments are generally doing a good job, but it’s all going really slowly. And nowadays, we all got so much power as individuals. We can just go out and have an impact - you’re a really good example for that.
But can you take us a little bit deeper into the topic: what do you think are the biggest challenges we’re facing with regards to food waste in our society? What are you stepping up against?
At the end, food waste is energy. And in embedded in this energy, there are a lot of natural resources. As we all know, the perfect example is the steak. In order to grow and feed a cow, you’re using so many natural resources: You need to transport it, you need to refrigerate it, then you need to prepare it…
And at the end, if it’s not being eaten or bought, it’s being wasted. It’s then landing on some landfill dumpsters in the world, under some plastic bags, being digested and producing methane gas - which is a way more dangerous greenhouse gas than CO2!
So, along the whole supply chain of food, there are so many holes and issues that exist. And at the end, if you waste this food - there is so much more value on it than just the price you see in the supermarket. Therefore, we should really try to work on solutions to prevent food waste.
Man, it’s such a big point that you just addresses there. It’s massive and we all really need to start to think about these issues. But you’re pretty positive about the future, right?
We have to be! << Only if you’re a positive person you can change something >>
And I think it’s nothing new. At least my grandmother always told me to finish my plate and not leave anything on it 🙂 The same is happening today. Our society has been changed and certain aspects - certain ethical aspects - in terms of food have changed.
The pricing barrier, I think, has turned a bit lower and some people really don’t care about what is being left over, where it’s being left over or what happens with it after.Yeah, unfortunately that’s true. But as you said, being positive and kind of infusing people with your enthusiasm about it - this is what really works...
Okay, now I would love to chat a bit about how MealSaver works and why it is creating such a good value for both users and restaurants. I mean, the core concept of MealSaver is pretty easy to understand…
But give me your elevator pitch 🙂 How does it work and what makes it stand out?
Yeah, so with MealSaver, you can pick up food from restaurants, which is being leftover at the end of a day. Usually, within a time frame of 15 minutes to 1 hour, more or less, you can pick up food in a restaurant shortly before they close - usually in the evening. Some food services are also during the day, or after the lunch buffet.
Then you can buy at a price between €1.50 and €3.50 usually - in some cases a bit more - a box that includes a portion of food. At the buffet style places, for example, you get an empty box and you can fill it up as you want. This box is compostable. In a bakery, you get a paper bag and they usually fill that up for you with baked goods…
You purchase a ticket through the app, so the restaurants can ensure that only a certain amount of people shows up. Everyday, they set the amount of portions - they know, that everyday, they overproduce an amount X of food, and they can count with it every day…
As you might know, in the food business, there is this factor 1.3. It means that an overproduction of food is counted everywhere, every time. So now, they do have solutions to give that out at the end…
Wow, 30 percent - that’s a lot! Crazy…
Yeah, I mean, if you’ve been to a hotel and you show up 5 minutes before the buffet closes - they’ll still have the whole variety of food. Otherwise, you as a consumer might complain. This is actually the society from yesterday, so there really needs to be a change for the society of tomorrow…
Oh yes, that’s true. Looking at the side of your partners - all the restaurants and cafés you have in the app… How many do you have in the app at the moment?
Right now, almost 300 all over Germany and a little less than 200 in Berlin. And those are ranging from the typical bakery at the corner, through a sushi place, buffets, a lunch café… All kinds of food you could imagine. I think in Berlin, we got everything.Also vegan places, gluten-free, salt-free…
Ah, can you ask for that? If you’re vegan or gf, is there a feature that lets you ask for that?
You can see if the restaurant has vegan options and in the future, we will implement another feature that will let you filter. And then you can really filter for these certain details.
Cool! Talking about the features: what is the feature you’re most proud of, that you think creates most value?
I think it’s the app itself. It’s the way, that a restaurant can highly dynamically - so 1 hour before they close - say, “okay, now I have ten portions of food left” and can give those out.
And that a consumer, at the other hand can see this immediately. This hasn’t been existing by now. And I think, this is really a tool with which we can, in a very dynamic way, connect consumers and restaurateurs. And therefore, make this handing out leftover food easier.
Sounds brilliant! We already tapped into it just before, but: what is the most important feature you want to add or improve in the near future? Apart from the filter option for vegan etc. - is there something else?
Oh, there’s of course a list of things that we would love to implement. But mostly, the community of MealSaver gives us so much valuable feedback! So we really see, which are the burning points right now. What should we really work on. And those are the filter functions, so that you can narrow down exactly at what time you want to eat what kind of food in which area.
In two weeks, there will already be an update that will make localization much more precise, so you can search for a certain address and see what’s around that…
I was gonna ask that, if that maybe comes soon that, if I have my favorite restaurant and I want to type that one in…
Yep. It’s coming. But as you might know, app development - as I’ve learned in the last month - is a really challenging and complicated ongoing process. In order to implement new features, you need many, many hours from the developer. And we are talking about a lot of money…
Ouhh, I imagine. It always takes longer than you think. That’s one of my biggest learnings so far. You always think “ah yeah, let’s just quickly do it” and then…
Anyway, I am personally really hooked by the way you link being affordable and being eco-friendly. We were saying that the boxes cost roughly between 2 to 5euros. But most people still think that it’s expensive to go green… Did you also feel that this is a major pain point, something that really holds people back from living more sustainably?
So, maybe first talking about our business: eating green is really affordable in that way. Because for a price between €1.50 and €3.50, you cannot do anything wrong. You can just try. And even if you get a little disappointed because you weren’t getting exactly what you expected - as you always get a surprise box… You might get a completely different experience at a different restaurant.
Although, if we talk about organic food and sustainably grown, local food: usually these prices, as we see in the retail stores, are still higher. But also the bar for that is sinking, I believe. And generation Y is now more and more okay with spending more money on better food, where you can see where it comes from…
That’s so true. That was really an issue, especially in Germany… There’s other countries who valued food a bit more than us I’d say. Germany was always pretty much going on the cheap. BUT it is changing, I’m pretty positive about that as well.
Looking back to all your partners, the restaurants, cafés etc. . How did they all react when you knocked on their door and explained what you want to do? Were they all really open, or did they think “what do you want”?
So, there are very different reactions that we face everyday. We are normally first calling the restaurants, talk to them and then go to further stages.
The reactions are really ranging from “I do waste food, but I don’t have an interest in giving it out”, through “I don’t understand exactly what will do with this food” - so they have the leftovers, but they’ve never really had something like this, so they cannot imagine how this process would work. Over to “we make everything fresh everyday, from scratch, so we don’t waste a single item”. You really have the full range of conversations everyday.
This is really what I’m trying to work on right now: How to make it easier accessible for restaurateurs and make them really feel that this is sustainable - and that this process is not making more work for the restaurant, but really taking work off their shoulders. And that it’s giving them some extra money. This is something that really needs to be communicated well.
True. Is there also an option that they reach out to you? I think I saw it on your website under “become a partner”.
Yes, there is! (“Partner werden” - see shownotes at the bottom)
Great! So, if there’s any Berlin food business, restaurant, café that makes and sells food out there listening: this is a really important thing. And it’s such a great value for everyone - for you, your customers, the environment… Please get in touch with MealSaver. I’ll put the contact details in the shownotes.
But - we are not finished yet. I want to swing over to talk about this amazing city that is Berlin and ask you, Leo, why you think that concepts like MealSaver work so well in Berlin? Why did you choose to start MealSaver here?
Firstly, the team was mostly based in Berlin. And many of us now also moved to the city. Apart from that, size is one factor. If you want to start something like that, you definitely need a certain size. But you also don’t want to go too far away to other cities, traveling and spending time on that at the beginning.
And of course, it’s the open-mindedness of the people, the access to food, the way of thinking, the startup culture, the numerous events that are out there… I think this all helped us to create a community.+
Making so many fantastic contacts all over… the world actually! From this tiny town, I can say 🙂 That helped us to connect. I was living over at Silicon Valley for one year and saw how the community is set up there - and i think in Berlin, it’s of course more compressed in terms of size. But the infrastructure here is fantastic for social entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs in general.
Wow! That’s a really big compliment for Berlin! I wanted to ask you that later, as I heard that you studied at the uni of Berkeley, California. So i would have asked you where we stand here, compared to California… But that sounds really encouraging!
Do you see a potential that Berlin becomes a big player - sort of a hub for the low waste movement in Germany, or even beyond?
Oh, in terms of waste, I think... Across industries, it doesn’t really matter too much where you are if the concept is applicable in many places. But of course, there are many initiatives that have been growing here. Or that are now also being implemented and used here.
It’s kind of this test city. In Berlin, you can find all kinds of people in order to see if your idea would also work globally? Let’s try it in Berlin, then we can see if there’s potential or not. So therefore, I think this location is really good and helpful for that.
My god, this is such a good way of looking at it. The whole world is in Berlin. It’s true, there’s people from so many countries, nationalities and backgrounds, and from other startup hubs as well. They all bring in their own ideas… Yeah, you’re right. You can totally test things out here.
And how do you look at the Green Startup Scene here in Berlin? What’s the vibe? Is there general support, lots of exchange? Or everyone a bit on their own?
Well, I’m usually working during the day - and in the evenings with half of my brain. Which means: there are so many events for startups, for entrepreneurs, for green thinking people, for… really anything. Every evening, you can hang out with a different group of people, chat, hear people talking, presenting. There’s so many possibilities.
What I’m really trying to do right now is understanding the whole movement better. Seeing who’s out there. There’s the German Startup Association and they now founded a food tech group. And 80% of those entrepreneurs are from Berlin. It’s been founded three months ago, so it’s a pretty new thing.
The connection between those people and the exchange - most of the food entrepreneurs have a sustainable background, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. It helps so much to hear about all those initiatives and how it can be applied. Many problems are the same, so you can work together on certain issues… It’s really a great environment to have the access to those people and those initiatives.
Amazing! That’s exactly how I experience it, too. You’re so right, in terms of green, eco-minded events, there is so much going on. And not only for entrepreneurs. I’ve got my events calendar on the website and it’s always… I could fill it so much, I just don’t always have the time. Whenever I’m researching for events, I think “my god, where am I gonna go first?!”.
Considering that you’re based in Berlin - do you actually think about offering MealSaver in English as well? Or is it so straightforward that you don’t need it…
Oh yeah, actually this is already been done. It just needs to be implemented into the app. We’ve got feedback from our community that we are currently “excluding” a certain amount of people, which is so important. The translation itself is no issue, it’s really more the technical implementation. So, soon there will be also this feature.
Yeah, awesome! Now, after so many fascinating facts and insights, we’re coming slowly to the final section of what I wanted to ask you. And there’s a few things that I ask all of my interview guests.
First thing is: Since launching MealSaver last October (which is pretty recent), what was your biggest learning so far. Your biggest aha-moment?
It’s definitely the insight into the gastronomy sector and seeing how much food is being wasted there. I studied that from a little more theoretical point and analyzed, but not quantified. And now I can really see how much food indeed is left over every day. Even the smallest “Back & Snack” (fast food bakery chain) at the corner, to the big hotel. And how these amounts change. For me, every time again, it is so astonishing how much food is being wasted every day. And seeing that for real.
Man, I can imagine that. Already just listening to you makes me picture all these amounts… But you are changing it! Speaking of changing - if you could change one thing in Berlin within the next 24 hours - what would it be?
Whoo…. Probably the weather 🙂 The Berlin winter is really hard for me… Well, I think the open-mindedness of the people IS there. But sometimes also trying to challenge and overcome your own shadow, really trying something new and investing a bit of time in that to broaden your horizon…
The third reason to use MealSaver is not cost, is not environment - it’s the experience! The airbnb effect. So when you get a portion of food, you don’t know what you will get. And this is what I think, in the future, will drive a lot of people to do things. They will pay money for something they don’t know.
With MealSaver, we can really create an experience for people, this aha-effect of seeing how much is being wasted. But also trying new foods! I think, people will get more into that...
<< And I hope that simply everyone who is listening right now, will just be a little bit more curious and adventurous, so that we can really have color in our lives everyday. >>
I LOVE that! I’m surely the biggest advocator when it comes to what it adds to your life if you’re just curious and go out and explore. And how much fun it is. Being green was always linked to stress and difficulty. But it’s actually not true, as you say. Just open your eyes and experience cool stuff.
Alright, and what question should I have asked you but didn’t?
Hm, maybe what other initiatives are out there in order to prevent food waste in Berlin...
Okay, and which ones are there?
The two biggest game changers in this area - and you are probably familiar with those - are the Tafel, the food bank, and Food Sharing. We are working very closely together to see where we can really fill the missing holes.
The Tafel is a big organization, which is picking up regular amounts from big supermarkets, from big bakeries. Food Sharing is a bit more dynamic, but also regularly picking up food from supermarkets, sometimes from restaurants.
And we are really trying to fill this last hole, which is so dynamic, and sometimes so little that it is not possible for Food Sharing to pick it up. Sometimes it’s just about the one little portion of food being left over somewhere and trying to distribute those.
How amazing. There, in this answer you totally bring through this supportive vibe that we just talked about, in the Berlin green scene. I think it’s great that you talk about which other initiatives are out there and what else we can do. And altogether… it’s getting somewhere, it’s really getting somewhere.
Now, last question: if there was one thing you could pass on to the GreenMe Berlin community, the people out there - what would it be?
Oh, just support all the initiatives you hear about. All social entrepreneurs, who are trying to do really hard work - that can only work successfully if there’s a community behind.
And therefore, I just want to make a call: look who is out there, what new initiatives, be curious, try them out, talk to people, give feedback and simply help creating something big. Because each of us can change something in that sense. And we need, therefore, more and more velocity forward.
Ohhhh YES! I love it, it’s a such an important message - and a great way to finish… Leo, I’,m REALLY glad that we could talk today and that you told us so many fascinating insights about MealSaver and the anti-food waste movement…
Community is super important, I can only stretch that. But yeah, without people like you, we would not be on the path where it’s going now.I wish you and the team all the best for making it really big and convincing many many people out there that we can stop our food from going into the bin! Keep going!
Claudi, thank you very much! And completely the same to GreenMe Berlin. Please, everyone also check out the great features the platform has to give. I was amazed myself how many things you could do and discover there...
// FINAL WORDS:
Could you feel Leo’s passion & enthusiasm as much as I did? And doesn’t it make you feel good, that things are changing out there? And that it’s so easy for all of us to do sth?
Come on, let’s be more curious, get out of our comfort zones, be prepared to take a little risk - life is so much more fun that way!!!
If you’re in Berlin, Hamburg or Cologne, take out your phone, download the MealSaver app right now, it’s totally free - and just give it a go!
I put you the details about MealSaver below - and you can find all the links to the other initiatives we mentioned in the show notes below.
As Leo said at the end: please support those creative social businesses in Berlin, and anywhere else. They’re all working hard and really rely on YOU, on their communities. Without you, it simply doesn’t work!
It’s the same for me my friends. I need you to help me spreading the word. So share this episode with your friends, subscribe to the podcast or take a look through this website and see what else I put up for you.
Always happy to hear from you, with any thoughts, feedback and questions you may have - so don’t be shy and get in touch!
And if you really wanna up the game and green up your life, sign up for my #10daysofgreen challenge and I'll send you a daily challenge right into your inbox, each morning, for 10 days. The next round is starting on March 14!
Alright, let’s call it a wrap now! Thanks a million for listening guys, have a beautiful day - and always remember to KEEP IT GREEN 🙂
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