Food is wasted along the whole food chain from farm to table and we’ve been hearing about it in the last decade. From TED Talks, alarming news stories and from those environmentally conscious neighbours with a compost next door. Everyone throws away food, we are all aware of it, yet an easy to use, all-in-one tools for us as consumers were not available until recently. We just don’t know what to do to avoid food waste at home.
The insight behind CozZo is simple – to provide each household with an accessible instrument for smart shopping that reduces the uneaten food at home to a minimum. Chefs and restaurants owners have long been using all kinds of digital mechanisms to maximize their food processing efficiency, now it’s time for us as household managers to do the same.
Here’s how we made it, tested it and we think it works. We started by making a detailed investigation of the whole consumer journey. From home to the shop, then back to the kitchen, to the fridge and pantry, then out for the stove, the table, (sometimes) back to the fridge, then (often) to the trash bin. We identified the main reasons why we all throw away food at home. Then we integrated into our application as many features as necessary to solve each step of the problem and avoid food waste at home.
Why every European and US household wastes so much food?
1. Poor estimation – we simply don’t know how much we need and we buy even more.
Every waste-free guidebook starts with the top of mind advice “make a list and stick to it”. That is absolutely a must, we agree. But it skips a really important first step before we come to the list. We cannot make a precise to-buy note if we don’t know the exact amount of groceries and essentials that we already have.
Let’s assume we have the good habit of making a list prior to every shopping. How do we do it? By a quick overview of what’s on the top shelf of the fridge and (maybe) the rice and pasta cupboard. We don’t know all the food that is stored in our fridges, freezers and pantries. Let alone how long it has been there and when it is going to expire. Every single house has had its UFOs at some point, if not always. Where UFO stands for Unidentified Frozen Object at the bottom of the freezer.
CozZo solution: We found there are multiple apps to help you make a shopping list, as well as general purpose lists tools. But there was none that combined those two for you. So in CozZo we paired your complete searchable household inventory with a smart shopping list. As you can guess, we don’t know what is currently stocked in your home, but we created a fun “swipe a card to left/right” wizard to help you start with minimum effort. Or you can just fill it “on the go” by crossing off items from your shopping list. Once you’ve done it, it will be yours forever – CozZo has all the controls to let you keep it up to date with minimal effort.
2. We discard food because it is passed its ‘best-before’ date. But do we have to?
Food in developed countries is relatively cheap. It has been so in the past 40 years, so we do not bother to be careful when buying and storing groceries. We also tend to be overprotective and generally risk-averse. If the stamp on the yoghurt says “best before 12-10-2018” we prefer to be on the safe side and do not eat it two days later.
But there is enough evidence that we have to change such “reasonable” behavior for the sake of other, much more reasonable conduct. What are these “best before” dates anyway? They are manufacturers’ advisory time frames indicating their pessimistic prognosis for how long the product will be at its highest quality at the “typical” storage conditions. Except for very few food types, the date does not mean that the product is hazardous for people’s health pass this time. If you have a modern refrigerator and store items properly, your food will be okey for much longer than the “best before” date.
CozZo solution: Our product creation AI suggests a realistic shelf life (called ‘Use/Best Within’) for the optimal storage place – your fridge, pantry or freezer. Naturally, you can pick a time period based on your own personal estimation or use the old-fashioned fixed expiry date. Our ‘Use/Best Within’ periods are far handier than a fixed date as they allow for automatic calculation of expiry date for current and future product buys.
CozZo is also super-precise in tracking and reporting on the status of your groceries. If the food is highly perishable, you will get a strict reminder and the product will be red-flagged. For all other foods, whose flavour might be slightly lost with time but are absolutely safe to eat you’ll get a gentle reminder and a green-flagged display.
To help you perfect your shopping and cooking routines the app checks your home inventory several times in a day and sends to your phone home screen reminders for products that need your attention. They allow for a quick product update even without opening the app.
3. No communication – different people in the household buying the same product simultaneously.
This is a no brainer, actually. Remember the day you bought bananas and your husband came home with…bananas. That day was yesterday probably. Calling someone in the middle of the work day with a request to buy something on the way back home just doesn’t work well. People are busy and careless, people forget. So one of the two bunches of bananas will go to the bin. Unfortunately.
CozZo 2.0 solution: Talking to your partner through an app is not the best idea in general, but when it comes to “what to buy” instructions, it is great. One of the upcoming CozZo functionalities is that it will allow for multiple users to have access to lists and inventories. When one buys or adds something to the lists, the others get notified. And which is even better – now he knows exactly what kind of mascarpone you need for that cheese cake you are making. Win-win all the way, isn’t it?
4. High expectations – we send food the bin because we are too optimistic about our cooking plans.
If the first principle of smart shopping is ‘plan ahead’, the second one is ‘don’t plan too much’. This is extremely relevant for those of us who prefer one big weekly shopping rather than going to the deli 3-4 times a week. When we go to the store with the good intention to secure the meal plans for at least 5 days ahead, we always go for the optimistic prognosis. We make sure we buy products for 5 days of home-made dinner, plus lunch boxes, snacks for the office, etc. Then we go out one evening, the next day someone has a birthday in the office. There you go, you have 25% more food than needed, with a likelihood that 100% of it will go to the bin.
CozZo solution: Waste-free kitchen guidebooks say that you should always plan a lazy evening or two. CozZo helps you do it the easy way. You just go through your “At Home” list while still at the office and think of what you can do with what’s available. This saves you time as well. When you know that you have everything for your salad but mozzarella, you go to the deli just for mozzarella. Otherwise, you will wander around the store for ‘”something for dinner”. And you will leave 20 minutes later with a full cart of unplanned grocery shopping.
5. False perceptions – we buy more because supermarkets and marketing people tell us that buying in bulk is better. Timewise and budget-wise.
Bulk is bad and it’s a fact. Multiple surveys prove that buying in bulk eventually leads to more food waste. If you eat a yoghurt a day, buy a six-pack. But if you are eating one every sometimes, buy one only. Or two. Ignore the “six at the price of four” label. Buying large containers or multiple packs has more side-effects than food-waste. It means you have to go shopping with your car. You need more storage space at home. And you will eat (mindlessly) more than you think.
CozZo solution: The third main feature of our app, apart from the home inventory and the shopping list, is its Journal. For each product, you can say whether you used it all, or how much of it you were not able to eat in time. So next time you put six yoghurts on your shopping list, the app will remind you that last week 2 of those were thrown away. We assume this will serve as a stopper for impulsive buying of larger quantities of food than you can actually consume.
6. The last main reason for food loss at home is storage.
Processed goods are “reinforced” with preservatives and have a long shelf life. We overstock them along with healthier produce and farm foods, but all this product accommodation requires increased storage space in our homes – big pantries, huge fridges, stand-alone freezers. As a result products are pushed to the unreachable back and stay in cupboards and fridges until they spoil. We hope that you’ll agree with us that nowadays no one has the time to do daily kitchen checks and memorize expiry dates.
CozZo solution: With CozZo, most of the updates in your digital food catalogue happen as you plan meals and do grocery shopping. Our “days to go” indicator will tell you what food you need to use first or how much time has passed since “use by” date. On top of that, home screen reminders will bring to your attention food that is about to expire.
Health-wise, we encourage you to increase the share of fresh and unprocessed foods in your basket. When you have a reliable tool for keeping tabs on them, you can be sure that they won’t end in the bin.
With CozZo we want to provide not only an advanced mobile technology, but also to raise food-waste awareness. We strive to educate, motivate and develop a community of smart shoppers who care for the environment. Here are some useful tips on how to store your groceries and keep them as fresh as possible for a longer period of time.
When you start using the CozZo app and have a regular overview of what foods you throw away most often, you can adjust the way you store them. Here’s a full list of guidelines for the most common products in our kitchens. We hope we’ve been helpful.