Former Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb has joined the board and become a "sizable" investor in FoodMaven, a Colorado Springs-based startup that finds new markets for surplus food from grocers and distributors, The Gazette reported.
FoodMaven buys excess food items from retail stores and distributors and sells them via an online marketplace to restaurants, institutions and commercial food preparers, according to the Colorado Springs newspaper. It also handles locally grown food as well as imperfect items with minor cosmetic issues.
"Obviously, there’s some degree of validation to what we are doing to have someone of his stature joining," FoodMaven CEO Patrick Bultema told the paper. "He has great insights that he brings to us in terms of the food system."
FoodMaven, which started last year in Colorado Springs, plans to expand from its current operations there and in Denver to eventually operate in 100 major cities over the next five years. Its goal is to cut down the estimated 130 billion pounds of wasted food that annually gets sent to landfills.
When the startup buys surplus food and sells it to other entities, it's diverting usable items that would otherwise be destroyed. At the same time, buyers get a discount on wholesale food prices, and anything that doesn't sell fairly quickly is donated to charity. Another benefit is that the FoodMaven system helps suppliers limit their food disposal costs.
Food Maven CEO Patrick Bultema indicated there are other groups diverting food from waste streams, but that FoodMaven is the first to broadly tackle the current system by rescuing food items that would otherwise go to waste from various sources and recovering their value.
FoodMaven's online system works by signing up users and then having them search the warehouse inventory for the items they need. Buyers say they are sometimes able to acquire high-quality items at discount prices.
“It’s really good for the industry. It’s good for the farmers. It’s good for the consumers,” Steve Kanatzar, owner of the Airplane Restaurant in Colorado Springs, told the Denver Business Journal in July. “Nothing I’ve ever gotten from FoodMaven has ever been substandard. And in fact, much of it has been higher quality than I get from other purveyors.”
FoodMaven says its programs have diverted more than 800,000 pounds of food from landfills since the beginning of this year, a track record that reportedly drew Robb to the project.
“FoodMaven is going straight at the growing challenge of food waste and has created an imaginative and innovative market-based approach to using more of what we produce," the former Whole Foods executive said in a press release.