Combatting food waste
Yindii is an app that bridges the distance between sellers of quality food surplus and eco-conscious consumers. Users can shop for unsold food items or fresh produce that are untouched, from restaurants and shops, at discounted prices.
A fun aspect of it is that while you choose the category of food that you would like, you don't exactly know which food items you will get for the day. Guru speaks with co-founder Louis-Alban Batard-Dupre about the app and how using it can play a part in reducing food waste.
How did Yindii come about?
When Covid broke out in Thailand last year, I wanted to help and be useful. I decided to join SOS Thailand, a food charity whose mission is to feed underprivileged people in Thailand. That's when I discovered how bad the food waste crisis was and decided to act on it. Nobody wants to see delicious food ending up in the landfill, but 33% of all food produced worldwide is wasted. In Thailand, this is near 17 million tonnes per year. It is an ecological disaster. Food waste accounts for more than 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, four times more than that of the airline industry. If we tackle food waste, we can reduce global warming and save our planet.
A huge part of food waste is actually high-quality surplus. It's hygienic, edible and safe, but doesn't get picked up by buyers. So my wife and I thought to connect these high-quality surpluses from supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants directly to consumers at a discounted price. That is how Yindii was born.
How does the app work?
Yindii is an anti-food waste app that connects eco-friendly consumers with restaurants, supermarkets and bakeries that have excess, good quality food products at discounted prices. We're a direct-to-consumer surplus marketplace, where food merchants can create exclusive and immediate 'Happy Hour Deals', with discounts between 50-80%.
All products come in a box, which Yindii users purchase before heading to the specific restaurant for pick-up. The box can also be delivered. Transactions are all electronic. Consumers will discover what is the exact surplus products they receive from their chosen category, when they open the box.
Yindii was established with a simple mission: make sure delicious and perfectly good food is tasted, not wasted. Our model is a true Win-Win-Win. People can save high-quality food, save money and protect the planet. Stores can generate additional revenues instead of losses, find new customers to try their food and become more sustainable.
How do you expect users to choose a box without knowing its contents?
The surprise box is what makes Yindii unique and the experience of receiving it enjoyable. When you open a box from Le Macaron, which you get at 70% off, it's likely that you will be happy with the contents you get, whether it's French croissants, chocolate croissants or other baked goods. It's not about the contents, it's all about the journey. You do a good deed for the planet and participate in a bigger movement than yourself. Our community is so proud to be part of Yindii that they share a lot on social media about their surprise box and leave reviews and pictures on the app for other people to know what to expect. So if you're not too adventurous, you can get a good idea of what to expect.
How do you select vendors?
Yindii carefully selects partners as we have a commitment towards our users about food safety and quality. We are partnering with well-known brands, such as hotel chains like Centara, Hyatt, Accor Hotels, etc, eco-friendly restaurants like Broccoli Revolution, organic farmers and high-quality bakeries, like Yellow Spoon and Paris Mikki. We aim to ensure that the food quality will be controlled, hygienic, safe and delicious. This way, merchants can attract more customers, as well. We are, of course, always looking for partners to join our community. Now that Yindii is starting to gain popularity, more merchants are reaching out to us. Every week, we see store owners creating their profiles on the platform because a friend or another store owner has recommended the app.
How is the app funded?
At the moment, the company is funded using the founder's personal funds and a grant from Space-F, a food technology incubator and accelerator founded by Mahidol University, Thai Union and NIA. The grant is dedicated to build a better app.
What are some challenges you've faced?
The biggest challenge has been trying to change old mindsets and practices. Merchants generally increase prices to cover the loss of their unsold food and remain in business. As a consequence of food waste, food prices have increased by more than 40% over the past 10 years. However, sustainability is becoming an important factor for consumers, so merchants have to adapt. Another challenge is to change the mindsets of the merchants, who are shy to say that they generate food waste because it reveals that their stores don't sell out every day.
How has the feedback been?
Incredible! We are receiving so much love from everyone. It is more than we expect. We started with two merchants and 40 users, most of who are friends. We now have 70 merchants and 7,000 users! Customers truly understand how they and the planet benefit from this initiative.
What can you tell us about the food waste situation in Bangkok?
The food waste situation in Bangkok is catastrophic. I'm usually a very positive person, but it's hard to see a bright future if there's no profound change. A 30% increase in food waste is expected in the next decade if we don't reverse the tendency (Source: BCG). Saving and redistributing 25% of this lost food could feed everyone living in poverty. The lack of legal protections for food donors and distributors is a significant hurdle. For instance, in France, a recent law forces supermarket chains to set up a donation programme for their unsold edible food surplus.
In Bangkok, only 2% of all food waste is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills. We have to understand that when food is not properly disposed of, its decomposition process releases methane, a gas 25 times more harmful to the atmosphere than CO². We really hope to raise awareness about this issue. Together with the public, we can influence big retailers to change old practices.
What are your goals for Yindii?
Our goal is to end food waste in Southeast Asia. I believe that we are starting a positive revolution that will create more sustainability in the region. To succeed, we must convince more people and prominent retailers to join. I believe that Yindii will become the number one lifestyle app for eco-friendly Thais. It will be an easy first step for Thai people and food brands to start their sustainable journey because there are financial benefits to it.
What's next for Yindii?
The Yindii team is working on a new version of the app. It will make the job of food waste fighters easier and fun. It will also offer more flexibility and tools to food merchants, such as sending last-minute rescue alerts to food lovers nearby. At the moment, Yindii is also looking for funding from business angels and impact investors who share the same mindset as us. This could help us grow the team and operate in new cities in Thailand and Southeast Asia.
Yindii is free on App Store and Google Play. Visit www.yindii.co or fb.com/yindii.co.