Episode 6: Food Waste with Ann Yang and Phil Wong (Misfit Juicery)


Ann Yang and Phil Wong recently started a company called Misfit Juicery that takes so-called "ugly" produce and turns it into delicious cold-pressed juice. These young, motivated entrepreneurs sit down with us to talk about their company and food waste more generally. By the end, we think you'll agree that food waste is a major problem that can be mitigated and that produce beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Learn about more environmental topics impacting our natural environment here!

Updated Episode Intro Notes

A lot of what we said in our 2016 intro still holds. For one, NRDC came out in 2017 with a second version of its landmark Wasted report from 2012 and said it doesn’t have the data to say whether we are wasting less food five years later. So, America is likely still wasting 40% of its food from farm to fork to landfill, and we found articles saying we still waste a third of food globally, which is enough to feed the world’s hungry four times over. So still an obscene amount of waste.

Latest Initiatives

First let’s talk food labels. We discussed how confusing sell by and best by dates lead to food being thrown away that is perfectly fine to eat. Well the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Manufacturing Institute launched an initiative in 2017 to limit the food labels to just “best if used by” and “use by.” They’re trying to weed out the myriad of other vague terms like Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By or Best By. Thanks in part to this initiative, 87% of products now carry one of these two choices.

We also discussed how In September 2015, USDA and EPA announced the first-ever national food waste reduction goal of 50% reduction by 2030. Well that’s still the goal. But in October 2018, the EPA, USDA, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a new initiative to move toward this goal. It has a great name. “Winning on Reducing Food Waste.” Because what Trump administration policy isn’t about winning? The agreement affirms a shared commitment to reducing food loss and waste (remember, there’s a difference!) and commits them to developing a strategic plan for coordination and communication among the EPA, FDA and USDA.

Latest Studies/Facts

Last year NRDC did a study of three cities--Denver, New York City, and Nashville. It found that 68% of the residential food waste in those cities was potentially edible. The average household was wasting 3.5 pounds of food per week. Check out this report since it does a nice job discussing policy changes to reduce this waste including better public education and increased food recovery activities like diverting food scraps to animal feed. By the way, check out Tristram Stuart’s Ted Talk on how feeding scraps to livestock can help tackle the food waste crisis. It blew our minds a little bit. He explains how we save way more carbon by feeding food scraps to pigs than saving it via anaerobic digestion.

ReFed released a 2018 U.S. Food Waste Investment Report showing trends in private, public, and philanthropic capital. ReFED is a multi-stakeholder nonprofit, powered by an influential network of the nation’s leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste. Check out its website since it has a ton of great info including a Roadmap to Reduce Food Waste. The Roadmap said $18 billion in funding is needed to reduce U.S. food waste 20% over a ten year period. The Investment Report shows some capital is starting to be mobilized.

For example, in the private sector, more than $125 million of venture capital and private equity funding has been invested in food waste startups including Apeel Sciences and Full Harvest during the first 10 months of 2018.

Check out this report for so many more facts and insights than we have time to cover here.

Latest Companies/Products

Karma is an app which enables consumers to buy unsold food from restaurants, cafes and grocery stores at half the normal price towards the end of the day. It has over 400,000 users and works with 1,500 businesses in Sweden and London.

Olio is an app that started in 2015 to connect people who wanted to hand over edible food. Some give food from their homes. Businesses that use it pay a fee, and their food is collected from 2700 trained volunteers, who OLIO calls Food Waste Heroes. OLIO has 780,000 users. More than half of the listings on Olio come off in under two hours. It has raised $8.2 million and will be adding small premium services. With Olio, food has been shared in more than 30 countries including the USA.

If you found these two apps of interest, check out GreenBiz’s article titled “16 Apps Helping Companies and Consumers Prevent Food Waste.”

Apeel Sciences recently released an edible coating called edipeel that can extend fruit or vegetable shelf life by as much as five times. Made of leftover plant skins and stems, the coating acts as a barrier that slows the decay process. It’s raised more than $100 million from investors including Bill Gates. It’s now piloting edipeel-applied avocados that last twice as long in more than 100 midwest grocery stores including 30 Costco locations.

Latest Policies

Last year, Australia set a target to reduce the amount of food waste it generates by 50% by 2030. To help achieve the country’s food waste target, the Australian Government decided to invest 1.2 million dollars over two years to support food rescue organisations. In 2016, France became the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food. It also requires good quality food before it’s “best before” date to be donated to food banks. If you’re interested in US food waste policies, check out ReFed’s U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder. It’s updated regularly.

Latest on Misfit

So first there’s this--it’s now “Misfit Foods”. In October 2018, Phil and Ann announced that they have stopped juice production so they can focus 100% on developing products that address the full spectrum of waste in supply chains.

So why the switch? Well Ann and Phil recognize that there is so much more to the food waste issue than “ugly” produce. For example, they note that that scrap waste from carrot sticks, romaine hearts, and veggie noodles is a huge source of waste. Also, avocado oil production only uses 11% of the whole fruit. Their new products will transform the biggest food supply chain inefficiencies into delicious, highly nutritious, plant-forward products.

Phil and Ann want you to be part of the product development process. You can join their Innovation Odd Squad by going to misfitoddsquad.com.

When will the new products launch? Phil and Ann say it will be some time in 2019. Of course if you join their Odd Squad, they’ll let you know about the launch, but you can also follow us on twitter or facebook or Instagram or sign up for our newsletter via our website and we’ll let you know too.