October 29, 2014
Spoiler Alert is a food recovery and waste management platform that helps businesses better manage their excess, expiring, and spoiled food. This B2B solution, delivered via mobile and web-based platforms, will connect otherwise wasted food with organizations that can use it productively. We talked to co-founders Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina about the importance of developing alternatives to traditional waste management practices.
What was the inspiration for creating Spoiler Alert and how does it work?
Spoiler Alert grew out of an idea developed through our entrepreneurship coursework at MIT. But it quickly became much more than that once we dove into the inner workings of the food industry and discovered the remarkable amount of waste (and subsequently, the tremendous opportunities for innovation) within the food system. Fueled by our previous work experiences in sustainability, energy, and enterprise technology adoption, and supported by the resources available at MIT, we have taken the leap to turn this into a real business venture.
Spoiler Alert will link every player within the food system – from farmers and food makers to grocers, restaurants, food banks, animal feed producers, composters, and bio-energy producers – to create a robust, two-sided marketplace that helps businesses recover value from otherwise wasted food. With a few simple clicks, the platform enables businesses to post what they have available, and organizations to indicate they are interested. Spoiler Alert can then confirm the exchange, route a driver to the destination, and process the transaction.
What makes your site unique from other online food marketplaces?
Spoiler Alert is designed as a comprehensive solution to reduce waste management burdens and fast-track food recovery efforts for all types of food across the entire food supply chain. We are focused on aligning with customers’ current operations to create a seamless technology solution that complements existing procurement, waste management, and accounting processes. Spoiler Alert will also leverage its robust network of support in the Greater Boston Area – strengthened by the recent commercial food ban that went into effect in Massachusetts in October 2014.
Why is coming up with solutions to the food waste issue so important right now?
More than 30 percent of food produced in the U.S. gets thrown away, which translates into over $160 billion in lost value for businesses and consumers each year. This is a missed opportunity to feed the 50 million food insecure Americans and to reduce the environmental impacts of our food system. Today’s reality leaves food banks without sufficient food from local donations; farmers stuck with “ugly”, but edible produce that grocers refuse to stock; and retailers losing money by sending food to the landfill that no longer belongs on their shelves. The food waste problem is particularly ripe for innovation here in Massachusetts, where approximately 1,700 organizations are impacted by the legislation.
How have you been able to merge commerce with sustainable business practices?
Spoiler Alert will reduce waste and food insecurity to improve the local food system, community, and economy. Our platform will enable nonprofits to increase food donations to help feed the 50 million food insecure Americans. The solution will help U.S. businesses across the food supply chain capture financial value from the $50 billion of food wasted at the retail level every year. Spoiler Alert will also reduce the environmental impacts of our food system by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions caused by food waste in landfills and minimizing domestic dependence on fossil fuels via support for energy production.
What's the future of the company? Where do you think you'll have the biggest impact?
Focusing initially in the Greater Boston Area, we are targeting partnerships with local nonprofits and food businesses for our pilot program in Winter 2014 – initially prioritizing improved distribution of food to people in need. Ultimately, to maximize our impact for our customers and the food system, we plan to create a powerful platform that can be scaled throughout New England and across the nation that incorporates organic matter that can be used for animal feed, composting, and as feedstock for industrial uses and energy production.