According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tons – gets lost or wasted every year. Frightening. One Luxembourgish startup has decided to do something about it, rather than avoiding the issue. Selected as one of the eight best FoodTech startups in the EU at the last edition of the EIT, we met with Xénia Ashby and Ilana Devillers, the two co-founders of F4A, to tell us all about their exciting projects for the upcoming months. An interview with two amazing ladies, full of positivism, inspirational thoughts and big smiles, lots of smile!
Photo: Xénia Ashby and Ilana Devillers, co-founders of F4A / Image Credits: F4A
A societal issue turned into a startup
Incubated with Lux Future Lab since March 2018, F4A is expanding every day with one goal and one goal only: eliminating food waste! “How seducing and motivating does that idea appear? We want to change the world!” simply and passionately said the co-founders.
Three years ago, both students in Belgium and France, F4A’s story began. “It all started with a personal need. As students, we had a limited budget for food and couldn’t afford healthy food. Discussing this problem with some of our friends, we realized that we were not alone, some of them even practicing dumpster diving!” told us Ilana. “We couldn’t close our eyes anymore, we had to do something about it”. Which they did.
The two determined co-founders began to document themselves on food waste in supermarkets. They conducted an analysis of the annual accounts of supermarkets both in Luxembourg and in France. “We stumbled on major loses of food, very well hidden actually, as part of “general loses”” detailed Ilana. “We already knew that supermarkets threw away, every day, tons of perfectly eatable food just because of their expiry dates policy, but we needed to find a legal loophole for us to act and do something about this aberration!” said Ilana. Which they did.
The very next day, F4A brand was deposited with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP). “It took actually one year to the brand F4A to officially exist, but that’s a different story!” revealed Ilana.
“Supermarkets will gain more visitors interested with F4A’s bargain but also other consumers concerned about our environment”
How does F4A work?
F4A works simply. Products arriving to their expiry dates will be retagged with F4A stickers and centralized in dedicated spaces, after having passed a safety and quality check. They will then be offered for sale, up to a range of 50% discounted price allowing shoppers, with low-income but not only, to purchase valuable goods.
“Depending on the supermarkets, we either have specific F4A shelves in every supermarket departments or dedicated fridges. The means to present F4A products to the consumers is left at the discretion of the supermarkets” said Xénia.
It took them time to find the best way to present this project to the supermarkets, as changes are often hard to implement at the consumer’s level, used to a certain way of consuming. “The consumers should realize they’ve gained something at the end of the month, noticing the savings made, without having actually changed anything in their habits. That’s a tricky business!” declared Xénia.
On the supermarkets’ side, F4A offers a win-win situation. By using F4A, retailers will reduce their loses, act for the environment and give their brands a positive image as social responsible player. A perfect package deal. “Supermarkets will gain more visitors interested with F4A’s bargain but also other consumers concerned about our environment” said Ilana.
“In the short-term, we want the consumer to be able to pay its groceries through the app”
Get social and act for a better planet with the F4A app
Since last November, a F4A mobile application is available on iOS and on Google Play. Beyond reducing unnecessary food waste, F4A also wants to better inform and educate the consumers on their food shopping habits.
Via the app, consumers are made aware of the savings they’ve made during a month, they can create groceries lists to avoid buying unnecessary products and they can find recipes to cook the products they bought. “We wanted to create one tool for the consumers to use” said Xénia.
Using the app will allow the shoppers to improve their cooking skills thanks to the videos of recipes posted. “We have spent our entire summer cooking and recording our recipes! Cooking being both our passion, this was not a problem at all!” declared the co-founders. You will be able to find over 300 recipes on the app. “In a near future, we intend to work with bloggers and influencers to post their recipes on the F4A app” explained Ilana.
Many new ideas are popping every day in the vibrant minds of those two young startuppers, working towards a better world. “In the short-term, we also want the consumer to be able to pay its groceries through the app” detailed Ilana.
Very importantly, the startup also intends to play an educational role helping the consumers to understand the impact of their actions or better, their non-actions. “We organized a first conference at the University of Luxembourg with the presence of a waste manger expert, which was a great success! We were really pleased to see many students concerned by food waste and eager to understand how to deal with such a waste” said Ilana. More conferences, led by professionals of the sector, are scheduled for next year, stay tuned for more info on their website!
F4A also prepares workshops for associations, receiving food from the supermarkets, to increase their awareness. “Some associations are known to throw away food received from the supermarkets and have difficulties to transform the donations, that is absurd! We can help them implementing a better logistic in order to preserve foods for a longer period of time and prepare meals in a more efficient manner” explained Xénia.
“We ambition to spread F4A all over Europe, and then internationally, as we now have the proofs that we can offer a service useful for everyone that can be implemented worldwide”
All you need is one Yes, to create many more!
Nearly two years ago, the two co-founders approached Delhaize Luxembourg to discuss F4A’s goal and ideas. “We made an informed choice approaching Delhaize first as they are known to be concerned about innovation and sustainability. They have been seduced by F4A project right away! We couldn’t ask for a better first partner to embark on our journey” told us the co-founders.
F4A dedicated shelves are now presented at Delhaize Belval, with all of the Delhaize supermarkets in Luxembourg to follow this early year.
Good news for the startup, this 4th of February, F4A shall be present in the shelves of the Pall Center of Oberpallen! “Counting all the supermarkets in the country as our clients is more than ever our short-term goal” ambitiously declared Ilana and Xénia, “and without revealing too much, we can already say that more supermarkets in Luxembourg will soon join the F4A adventure!”
Their presence at the EIT event in the UK made the two entrepreneurs realized that FoodTech is still way more developed in the UK, but also confirmed their feelings that the wide diversity of mentalities in Luxembourg is the best place to develop their ambitious project. “Truthfully, it is still harder for a FoodTech startup to develop here, compare to FinTech startups. We need more patience to pursue our project, which make our latest progress even more satisfactory!” said the co-founders.
Luxembourg is clearly a stepping stone to further international developments, that F4A’s co-founders don’t hide. “We ambition to spread F4A all over Europe, and then internationally, as we now have the proofs that we can offer a service useful for everyone that can be implemented worldwide” strongly emphasized Ilana.
Beyond a hope for a commercial success, F4A is above all a community dedicated to change the way we eat and consume. “The more we are, the bigger impact we can create! Therefore, we won’t stop participating in every event we can, doing pitches, presenting our project to fellow entrepreneurs and potential investors, to spread our mindset and increase our role!” concluded the co-founders.