How Meijer Saved 10 Millions Pounds of Food

Meijer Food Waste

Through its partnership with Flashfood, an app which offers steep discounts on groceries nearing their sell-by dates, Meijer has become the first American retailer to save 10 million pounds of potentially wasted food.

To put that into perspective, here are a few examples of other very large objects that represent historic achievements:

  • 10 million pounds is roughly one-quarter of The Great Sphinx
  • 10 million pounds is almost exactly half the weight of the Eiffel Tower
  • 10 million pounds is about one-and-a-half Saturn V rockets

To put it in kitchen terms, 10 million pounds is roughly 40 million bananas. No matter how one imagines what 10 million pounds looks like, the reality is that Meijer’s collaboration with Flashfood has helped feed hundreds of thousands of people. Per Progressive Grocer, most of those people purchased high-nutrition and highly valued groceries, most notably the retailer’s produce box as well as Atlantic salmon and ground beef. For context, Meijer is a privately owned grocery supercenter with over 500 stores, neighborhood markets, and Express locations throughout the Midwest and mid-Atlantic states.

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Brody Slacer, head of partner growth at Flashfood, called it a rare “win-win” for the planet.

“Working with Meijer has given thousands of shoppers access to affordable, high-quality groceries while reducing the impact of food waste,” he said.

And speaking to The Food Institute, Flashfood CEO and founder Josh Dominguez had much more to reveal regarding the partnership and milestone.

Dominguez appeared on The Food Institute podcast (below) with Food Institute senior content manager Chris Campbell and led with something we all know to be true—food, especially fresh, quality food, is prohibitively expensive for millions of Americans.

“So many people can’t afford food right now,” he said, referring to when he started the company around 2015. “And that was eight years ago. And it’s never been more true than today.”

Food waste is a global problem, and the U.S. wastes a lot of food – roughly 30% – 40% of the supply ends up landfills, and a recent United Nations report estimates that about 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted every year – over 1.3 billion tons worth almost $1 trillion. About 16 months ago, the Biden administration made almost 200 federal commitments to reduce hunger and diet-related disease as part of a national strategy on hunger, nutrition, and health. Today, the administration has accomplished just 25% of 82 key federal agency commitments that don’t require action on behalf of Congress; 42 of those commitments are underway, such as developing more stringent front-of-package regulations for packaged foods.

Many goals remain unchecked and unsatisfied. The FDA has made no public progress toward proposing (let alone finalizing) longer-term voluntary sodium reduction targets for the food industry.

Continued Innovation Helps Reduce Food Waste and Feed Hungry Families

Such bureaucratic handwringing, however, is not the provenance of Flashfood’s major achievement with its partnership with Meijer. Dominguez knows what he’s accomplished, even if much of it came as a surprise as Flashfood continues to innovate and find new partners, retailers, grocers, and users.

“We took the discount food rack, we made it look cool, and we put it on your cell phone,” he said. “So that’s the business and to date, we’ve diverted nearly 100 million pounds of food that would have likely ended up in landfills. And we’ve saved shoppers over $200 million dollars on their grocery bills over our lifetime.”

Dominguez said that as little as eight years ago, most major food companies didn’t track much of their food loss in meaningful ways—it was just a cost of doing business. Now, however, with the advent of instant logistics, increased transparency, and new implementations of supply chain tech, last-mile delivery, and certainly AI, that has changed.

“I will say that I think we’re going to continue to get more efficient in the food supply chain,” he said. “But what that means is we’re dealing with some of the biggest companies in the world that are pretty much like the front-facing retailers that get food on our plates. What that means is we see all across the value chain by way of the biggest companies in the world who move the most volume.”

Dominguez was quick to note there’s much more openness to innovation, conversations, and even collaboration among stakeholders. Because there’s a finite amount of food to go around.

“And I think the willingness for people to solve this problem is greater than it’s ever been because the financial impact is so meaningful. I think we’re going to continue to be more efficient and more efficient, and actually have an optimistic view of the future.”

As the cost of food goes up, the willingness for consumers to find ways to hack the grocery store—and their families’ budgets and nutrition—has never been higher. “And the openness from retailers has expedited in a way that we hadn’t seen in the past,” he said.

For retailers and grocers, the benefits of a partner like Flashfood are obvious—more consumers who are more willing to buy high-shrink and food loss items, increasing dwell time and building loyalty.

“It’s just fascinating because in addition to the innovation and the competitive nature in America—so much fiercer between grocery chains—it’s harder to get a shopper into your store, to keep them in your store, and to keep them coming back.”