Every day, Hong Kong sends up to 3,600 tonnes of food waste to landfills, using up resources and generating greenhouse gases which is accelerating climate change. Yet much of this waste is avoidable or can be repurposed. We spoke to Anne-Claire Beraud and Ina Lee from the food-rescue app Phenix by OnTheList, about starting conversations in regards to sustainability, changing mindsets on food waste and creating win-win situations for customers, businesses, and the environment.
Launched in Hong Kong in February 2021, the food-rescue app called Phenix by OnTheList is a joint venture between OnTheList, a Hong Kong-based company that holds members-only flash sales of fashion brands’ old inventory, and French startup Phenix. The app gives opportunities to customers to purchase unsold food of the day from F&B businesses at a hugely discounted price.
Phenix was established back in France, connecting large supermarket chains and charitable organisations in need of food donations on their B2B platform, when a new French law in 2016 made it illegal for retailers to throw away unsold food before its sell-by date. Phenix then launched a B2C platform, which is now in five countries across Europe, collectively rescuing over 120,000 meals a day alongside its other platforms.
SMALL QUANTITIES ADD UP TO BIG EFFECTS
“We keep the app as simple as possible for both customers and outlets. We believe every business has to take into account sustainability, and it should be easy enough for everyone to take part every day,” says Anne-Claire and Ina.
Phenix by OnTheList partners with any kind of business that has potential wastage – shops, restaurants, bakeries; and from small independent outlets to large corporations.
F&B partners can upload the number of mystery “food baskets” of unsold food of the day to the app and indicate a time available for pick up. Merchants can also set up an automatic publication for one basket every day, or on specific days of the week, based on known sales patterns. If they end up having more wastage than expected, they can publish more. Customers can then find a merchant on the app, choose a basket, and pick up the basket while paying 50% to 80% less than the regular retail price.
Outlets can indicate if the food basket is gluten-free, vegan and so on for customers to filter. There’s a map indicating where each participating outlet is, helping users find the one that’s nearest to them or in specific areas. Users can also save a list of their favourite merchants and get notifications on new offers.
“Said Anne-Claire and Ina”, Usually merchants don’t publish more than five baskets. The point isn’t to focus on the large quantities, because hopefully they would have implemented other measures such as donating to charities or reducing procurement. We work on the smaller quantities that can be saved by consumers.”
F&B partners can generate extra revenue from products that would have otherwise been thrown away, get exposure on the Phenix By OnTheList app and on their social media platforms, and be part of a circular economy where the concept of waste is eliminated. Partners can also login to see how many baskets they’ve sold, how much food they’ve helped divert from the landfill, and CO2 avoided – and use all that data for their sustainability reporting and communications.
“Many people in Hong Kong aren’t aware of the issue of food waste, or the link between that and its impact on the environment.” Yet just 8 months into launch, Phenix by OnTheList already has around 5,000 users and 100 F&B partners, and are working hard to expand their partner and customer base. “Even though this concept (of food rescue) was very new in Hong Kong, we’ve had new partners onboarding with us every week.” They are also targeting to work with local farms to help distribute farm produce, and hotels where buffets quite often generate a lot of waste. A cantonese version of the app is also expected to be available in November.
GET IN TOUCH
The Phenix by OnTheList team has been attending Food Made Good’s monthly events, and are eager to connect with more partners to help Hong Kong become more sustainable and accelerate it towards the objective of zero food waste!
Phenix By OnTheList is available on both Android and iOS devices.
This interview was conducted on October 18th 2021 when we were known as Food Made Good HK, prior to our rebranding to Future Green.