Oddbox delivers surplus or ‘odd’ fruit and veg - so the stuff that’s ‘too big’, ‘too ugly’, ‘wrong colour’ or simply ‘too many’ - directly from growers to UK households.
“Customers are drawn to Oddbox because of our mission to fight food waste. We give customers peace of mind knowing that they are not only making healthy choices with their food, but they are also part of a community with values embedded in helping the planet,” co-founder Deepak Ravindran told FoodNavigator.
“We’re definitely here to shake-up the in-efficiencies in the food system. Oddbox is prototyping an alternative, common sense, supply-led business model that supports farmers to sell what they have grown and has been deemed ‘too ugly’ or there is just ‘too much’ of, easing the burden on our planet in the process,” added fellow food entrepreneur Emilie Vanpoperinghe.
So far, she suggested, Oddbox is ‘tracking well’ against its mission. Since its inception in 2016, Oddbox has distributed over 2m boxes of fresh fruit and veg, ‘rescuing’ a combined 12,800 tonnes of produce. “This has helped in the fight against climate change by preventing 15k tonnes of CO2e - the equivalent to power 3,450 UK households in a year - as well as 1.5bn litres of water - the lifetime drinking needs for 25,127 people,” Vanpoperinghe observed.
The start-up, which delivers to the South East of the country, wants to grow its UK footprint and has set itself the target of ‘saving’ 35,000 tonnes of ‘waste’ produce by 2025.
As part of this effort, Oddbox has had a brand overhaul, launching a new look masterminded by designer Alex Green. Updates to the experience include an enhanced library of recipes created by long-standing Oddbox community members, seasonal eating guides and tailored meal plans with accompanying shopping lists in each box.
‘Oddboxers’ will receive tips and tricks to fight food waste at home, insights on issues affecting the planet, and they’ll receive a personalised impact report in their inbox, so they can see just how many kilograms of fruit and veg that they’ve rescued, as well as the volume of CO2e and litres of water that they’ve prevented.
‘The larger we grow, the bigger our impact’
Building this sense of community is central to Oddbox’s strategy to engage with existing customers and attract new consumers, Ravindran explained.
“Together we are stronger in the fight against climate change, and every individual in the Oddbox community powers our collective achievements.
“Our updated brand experience has the customer’s journey at its heart. The aim is to ensure sustainable choices are easy for people to make and keep, as well as strengthen their support for, and participation in our weekly mission and putting delicious, “odd” fruit and vegetables on their tables is doing good for the planet.
“We also hope that the new experience will attract new customers, because after all, the larger we grow, the bigger our impact becomes. And the bigger our impact, the larger we grow. We keep this in mind in every step we take.”
Oddbox wants to maximise its reach to help move the needle on food waste, which contributes 8% of global greenhouse gases.
Raising awareness of food waste
As part of its mission, the company believes it needs to help UK consumers make the link between food waste and climate change.
While 81% of British people agree that climate change is a global emergency, only 30% see the link between climate change and food waste, according to WRAP research.
“Our mission not only goes hand-in-hand with people’s desire to be more sustainable and to eat delicious, fresh food sourced directly from growers, but also to educate on the key link between food waste and climate change.
“We want to build awareness among people of the environmental damage that food waste has on the planet, driving them to look for ingredients that don’t come with a heavy cost to the environment, which is where Oddbox can lend a hand. Our new brand experience makes it as easy as possible for our existing and new customers to play an active part in our weekly fruit and veg rescue mission, and eat good and do good. We also have a strict ‘no-air miles’ policy, so if customers find something in their boxes that’s from further afield than the UK, they know that it won’t have been flown in,” Ravindran revealed.
Vanpoperinghe added that shortening the supply chain and linking local producers with local consumers strikes a chord with shoppers in the UK. And as Oddbox expands, she hopes that the company will be able to develop a national reach. “We’re currently linking farmers and produce from across the country with consumers throughout London and the South East. Oddbox came to life in South London in 2016, and over the last five years we have been progressively adding more postcodes and cities to our catchment area as we’ve grown. Long-term we would love to see a nationwide community of Oddboxers fighting food waste together.”
Sales see COVID boost
Vanpoperinghe said that the Oddbox proposition feeds into a number of consumer trends that have accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
“The pandemic has had a big impact on us at Oddbox, as how Brits shop, cook and eat has fundamentally changed,” she told FoodNavigator.
“We’re all scratch cooking at home more, yet want to go to the supermarkets less, and so we’re increasingly ordering produce for home delivery online. We are also more aware of our health than ever before and so making choices with this front of mind.
“As a result of these shifts in mindset, many more people have joined Oddbox on our weekly rescue mission. Sales of our fruit and veg boxes have increased and we saw 600% growth year-on-year in April of last year as we all navigated lockdown for the first time. We welcome these new ‘Oddboxers’ with open arms as is general, especially as we have seen hospitality and food businesses close their doors in line with government restrictions, there is more fruit and veg for us to rescue.”