Whether a local or expat, you’d be no stranger to the city’s food waste problem: approximately 3,400 tonnes of food is sent to the landfill every day, enough of a mass to fill 220 double-decker buses. Among those who find such waste of resources outrageous - and a pressing issue to tackle - are the founders behind Food Savior, a green start-up that is dedicated to food waste reduction by linking up surplus food supply at local restaurants and cafés with consumer demand for high-quality food at bargain prices. Yes, that actually means that you could be paying less than HKD50 for scrumptious meals by some of the city's much-loved foodie hotspots the likes of Cali Mex, SpiceBox Organics, La Cabane Wine & Cheese Cellar, 208 Duecento Otto, Jinjuu, Café D'i, Tartes & Pop, Café Sausalito, Rummin' Tings, Commissary, Monsieur CHATTÉ.
Read on and find out why you, as a responsible global citizen, should be part of Food Savior’s #endfoodwaste and #nofoodwasteHK campaigns.
1. Who are the amazing founders behind Food Savior?
We are Liz Thomas (journalist), Florent Sollier (finance), and Adrien Hay (finance).
Florent and I are married and have a two-year-old, and Adrien is a good friend also married with a child the same age
2. How did the idea of Food Savior come about?
[Liz Thomas] The past few years have felt quite bleak in terms of world affairs and I think it is easy to despair. Perhaps becoming parents triggered it - thinking about the kind of world our children will grow up in. But the three of us felt it was time we actually did something, instead of ranting on Facebook. That if we wanted the world to change, then we needed to actively do something about it.
Food waste has always bothered me - I used to take doggie bags home if I couldn't finish my meal at restaurants. In Hong Kong there are endless buffets and free-flow brunch deals, plates piled high, mountains of food continually replenished, and there is always plenty left towards the end of the sitting. I started to wonder what happened to all the surplus - the realisation that much of it was thrown away was grotesque.
We noticed too how much people loved the discount corner at the supermarket, and felt there must be a way to do something similar with restaurants - to highlight last-minute deals or special offers in a bid to reduce waste.
3. How does Food Savior Work?
[Adrien Hay] We came up with essentially a digital version of the discount corner. It connects customers with restaurants who have a surplus of excellent food left at the end of service, and are happy to sell it at bargain prices. Restaurants can also list last-minute deals or special offers for their quiet periods to help ensure nothing is thrown away.
You can just input your location and see what's available near you - or hit ‘SHOW ALL’, and it lists all the discount deals across the city.
The pickup window is set by the restaurants and café to suit their needs. The eateries schedule the collection window to coincide with the end of their different service schedules. This means that you are likely to get food at different period of time: Around 12pm at the end of the breakfast service, around 3pm for the close of the lunch service, at 7pm when cafés close and from 10pm when restaurants close. There should be something to fit different working hours and different lifestyles, and the range of options will only increase as the number of restaurants we work with expands. We started with restaurants but we hope supermarkets and caterers will come on board later too. We're also looking at ways we can work with food redistribution charities, so that people can buy and donate.
4. What is the goal of Food Savior?
[Florent Sollier] To curb the amount of food waste in Hong Kong, to get people to think differently about throwing out food and our consumption culture.
The aim of this is to get the whole industry to see there is an opportunity - for them to make money on surplus food, and to do their bit for making Hong Kong a cleaner, greener, place to live. But also for consumers, to realise how much power they have. Want cleaner air in Hong Kong? Well, food waste rotting in landfill is a big contributor to that. So why not use Food Savior, get a bargain, but also show restaurants - and food and beverage industry - that this matters to you. If you have a favourite restaurant that isn't working with us - ask them why not.
We're building up a little community in Hong Kong for people who want to get more involved in these issues, but also to highlight some brilliant companies already innovating to help curb food waste. The more people know what's out there, the better.
5. What are the pros and cons of launching a food reduction initiative in Hong Kong?
Pros - People in Hong Kong are incredibly receptive to new ideas in that there is a lot of good will that you succeed. The green sector is growing, we know that as people understand the gravity of the issues we face, they are keen to make small changes to make a difference. People love to eat so anything that involves offering special deals or food at bargain prices is met with a good response. It is a small city so you don't have to go far to find a participating restaurant.
Cons - People here don't yet realise how much damage food waste is doing to the planet. It's a huge contributor to air pollution and it is a massive waste of our resources. So much energy goes into producing food, transporting it, preparing it, cooking it - what a tragedy it is to see all that just end up in the bin. If people stopped to think about that, they might be much more cautious. Hong Kong is a fast-paced consumption-led city where people generally want things quick and easy, so getting people to stop and think about changing their habits takes time. Most people go to the same few places for lunch every day, but our hope is that one day, people will check Food Savior first whenever they are hungry and see what they can ‘save’.
6. How has the public's response to Food Savior's food waste reduction effort been so far?
[Liz Thomas] Everyone loves a bargain - and the people of Hong Kong are savvy about shopping so using our site makes sense. Restaurants update in real time and there are offers available throughout the day, so people are finding they can pick up something yummy for more than 50% off the original price whenever they feel hungry. In fact, we've had demands for us to work with more restaurants across Hong Kong, so we are really hoping to make sure we have options across the city. If you like the idea, make sure your favourite restaurant knows about it - ask them to work with us! We also really want to work with more local restaurants, and we'd like to meet with Cantonese speakers who are interested in working with us to help make that happen.
7. Why do you think more people should be part of this initiative?
[Liz Thomas] We are at a turning point in terms of our environment that will shape our future, and that of children, and grandchildren. We already know that if food waste were a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the US, and we already know that this is contributing to global warming, and if current temperature rises continue we are heading to catastrophe. But I think sometimes people find that too big a concept to really take in - it's hard to see how we can turn things around.
So our view is to start small, to make the changes we can, and to build up from there. Use Food Savior, bring your own box, bring your own water bottle, reduce single use plastic, don’t bother with straws.
I think former US President Barack Obama says it better than us: "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” We want people to be part of the change!
8. What’s the best thing about being the founder(s) of Food Savior right now?
Florent Sollier - The brilliant people we are getting to meet. There are so many people doing small things to try and make Hong Kong a cleaner, greener city. And there are even more doing so worldwide. We hope that Food Savior will be doing lots of collaborations with all sorts of companies and start-ups trying to tackle environmental issues.
We are slowly building a little community on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/foodsavior/), and here we hope to publish interviews with other great environmental and anti-food waste organisations, and generally highlight the other great initiatives out there (as well as the bargains on our own). We are running social media campaigns with #endfoodwaste and #nofoodwasteHK which we would urge people to join.
We would also love to hear from anyone interested in this issue so if you want to join the conversation, please do follow us and get in touch!
More info here www.foodsavior.hk