Retailer diverts millions of tonnes of waste

A company that sells short-dated groceries online said it has helped prevent over four million tonnes of goods from going to waste over the last decade.

Andy Needham, director at Sheffield-based Approved Foods

Sheffield-based Approved Food sells around 6,000 products at any given time, ranging from groceries, confectionery, soft drinks, household goods, wines and spirits to health and beauty products and luxury gifts.

Since launching 10 years ago with just 50 items, Approved Food has grown to a £4m turnover, 45 staff, and expanded the choice available, processing more than 850,000 orders containing more than 60 million items, for 250,000 customers.

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In total, shoppers have saved a combined £40m on the recommended retail price of the goods they bought, the company said.

This equates to more than four million tonnes of usable goods being prevented from heading to waste. According to WRAP, the national waste prevention body, more than seven million tonnes of food is thrown away in the UK every year.

The business partners with major manufacturers, distributers and artisan suppliers to offer products that may otherwise be difficult to sell, such as those with a short best-before date, cancelled orders, outdated packaging design or slightly obscure sizes or flavours.

By buying them at competitive prices, Approved Food is able to pass on savings to customers, in addition to diverting tonnes of usable goods from going to waste.

Typical customers include busy families and money-conscious consumers in the UK and across Europe and Scandinavia. “There have been subtle changes in our customer profile over the last 10 years but their saviness has always been there,” Mr Needham said. “We have got a broad range of customers - everyone likes a bargain.”

Director Andy Needham told The Yorkshire Post that a key focus for this year was assessing its technology.

“When we first started the business, people used to log on using their desk tops. Mobile traffic from customers placing orders has gone from nought to 80 per cent. We have to constantly keep on top of new technology,” he said.

“This year we are looking at our technology again. The website and back-end technology. We have evolved and developed over the years but as new technology comes along we need to make sure we have the right tools to make the customer experience easier.”

He added: “The way that we shop has changed beyond recognition in the 10 years since we started. With the introduction of smartphones and the convenience of delivery direct to your door it’s easier than ever to save money and try new things, from your cupboard essentials to those few luxuries everyone likes to pop into their baskets from time to time.

“In 2018 alone, we processed almost 90,000 orders totalling £4m – for goods worth more than double that at their regular retail value. Not only does this represent amazing savings for our customers, but it diverts perfectly good items from going to waste, meaning the environment benefits too.”

He added: “Products change on a daily basis. It gives customers good reason to come back. Constant variety is one of our major strengths.”

Even though the business has loyal customers, Mr Needham said another focus for the business is marketing. “We are one of the UK’s best kept secrets. People who have heard of us like us but it’s getting that message out there that we exist,” he said.

Looking ahead to Brexit, he added: “There are issues with suppliers and staffing problems in the food processing industries. Exactly what is going to happen, no-one knows but everyone is wanting more value for money and we are still able to perform a vital function in the whole supply chain.”