Rethinking the last mile to cut transport emissions in foodservice: ‘We see ourselves as the future of food distribution’

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Collectiv Food ‘breaks free’ from the conventional logistics model with a network of refrigerated Points of Distribution (PODs) in London, and as of last year, Paris.  Image source: Collectiv Food
Collectiv Food ‘breaks free’ from the conventional logistics model with a network of refrigerated Points of Distribution (PODs) in London, and as of last year, Paris. Image source: Collectiv Food

Related tags: Food miles, transport, Restaurant

London-based Collectiv Food is ‘breaking free’ from the conventional logistics model with a network of temperature-controlled Points of Distribution (PODs) for professional kitchen clients.

Research suggests transport accounts for one-fifth of total food-system emissions​, with fresh fruit and vegetables amongst the most carbon-intensive.

In foodservice, the classic logistics model sees distributors deliver produce from a centralised warehouse to professional kitchens in trucks. Deliveries are made one-after-another, which increases traffic levels in peak hours and exacerbate air pollution.

This system, according to entrepreneur Jeremy Hibbert-Garibaldi, is outdated. In 2018, Hibbert-Garibaldi launched an ‘antidote’ to the ‘opacity and malpractice’ he had observed in food wholesale: a London-based start-up he has coined Collectiv Food.

Collectiv Food ‘breaks free’ from the conventional logistics model with a network of refrigerated Points of Distribution (PODs) in London, and as of last year, Paris.

Deploying PODs in unused spaces

“We see ourselves as the future of distribution,” ​Collectiv Food founder and CEO Hibbert-Garibaldi told delegates at SIAL 2022 in Paris.

The start-up’s solution tackles the logistical challenge of making daily, fresh deliveries to restaurants in cities – particularly in those with emissions regulations. In London, for example, only a small number of vehicles are entitled to an exemption from the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and Congestion Charge.

“The biggest challenge, for us, was not to reproduce the model of one-stop-after-another distribution. We wanted to be more efficient and smarter in how we brought these products to market.”

So how is Collectiv Food re-thinking the last mile? “We’ve deployed PODs in unused spaces in the city,” ​explained the founder. With support from city management, the start-up has identified locations under bridges, next to highways, and in carparks. “There are a lot of places that people don’t really want to use but are strategic for our [distribution network].”

With orders from its clients already prepared, Collectiv Food stocks these temperature-controlled PODs from its warehouse during the night. Early in the morning, these orders are delivered to professional kitchens using electric cargo bikes or smaller vehicles with spare capacity already making journeys into the city.

By actively reducing peak hour traffic levels in these cities, the start-up claims to be reducing emissions in the city air by up to 50%.

“The result is fewer trucks, less pollution, less noise, and fewer disruptions.”

Connecting producers to customers

“The last mile was the biggest challenge we had in the early days,” ​Hibbert-Garibaldi recalled. “Collectiv Food was all about reconnecting chefs and kitchens with producers, and we quickly realised that if we didn’t offer a logistical solution, are we really helping anyone in the marketplace?”

But enhanced transparency and traceability remains part of the model. Collectiv Food goes ‘straight to the source’, the fonder explained. The start-up ‘owns’ its supply chain, from producer to customer. Collectiv Food looks at suppliers’ impact on environmental sustainability and can help them track their CO2 emissions.

According to the business, its relationships with producers are built on a commitment to promote ‘honest and transparent’ dialogue about food. “We share detailed product information with out customers to empower them to make informed purchasing decisions – particularly when it comes to the impact of their menu choices.”

collectiv
By actively reducing peak hour traffic levels in these cities, the start-up claims to be reducing emissions in the city air by up to 50%. Image source: Collectiv Food

Being a socially minded business, Collectiv Food is also stringent about which delivery operators it works with in last mile distribution. The start-up ensures riders are employed – rather that contracted – and trains them to ensure a positive ‘touch point’ experience with customers.

More cities in the pipeline

Today, Collectiv Food is distributing food to hundreds of commercial kitchens across London and Paris – including Big Mamma Group, Dirty Bones, Megan’s, and Tossed – from more than 2,000 ‘quality, vetted’ producers.

The start-up has no plans to stop here. Eventually, Hibbert-Garibaldi wants thousands of professional kitchen clients, and to be able to ‘deliver to every customer we want, at exactly the same time’.

“We don’t have to think about mapping out which client is going to be first and second [in delivery order]. The idea is that you can send out as many as you want at the same time.”

kitchen Klaus Vedfelt
Eventually, Collectiv Food wants thousands of professional kitchen clients, and to be able to ‘deliver to every customer we want, at exactly the same time’. GettyImages/Klaus Vedfelt

Earlier this year, Collectiv Food closed a £12m Series A funding round led by VNV Global, alongside VisVires New Protein, Octopus Ventures, Norrsken VC. Existing ventures also participated, including Partech, Colle Capital, and Mustard Seed.

What will the start-up put this funding towards? “It will go mainly into creating a team that is innovative and passionate. We are going to keep [investing in] R&D. Expect more cities and geographies,” ​revealed Hibbert-Garibaldi.

“The more customers we have, the more producers we work with, the more cities we are in, the bigger the impact.”

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