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Five minutes with…Eugenie Dronneau, founder and CEO, FoodKarma

Five minutes with…Eugenie Dronneau, founder and CEO, FoodKarma

The platform, which launched in March, aims to minimise food wastage

How does FoodKarma work?

The FoodKarma philosophy is based upon educating the food and beverage industry into dealing ethically with the production, manufacturing and distribution of its food products to try and minimise and avoid food wastage. It’s also about providing consumers with a means to access food at a better price, which would otherwise have to be disposed of, but is actually perfectly good.

Everyday our partners will list their items proactively at a cheaper price, and the customer through the app will be able to buy any of those “to be rescued” items at a cheaper price. The customer will have the choice between dine in, pick up or delivery, up to 14km radius, depending on the merchant offering.

Has the issue of food wastage gained greater awareness among consumers locally?

Unfortunately, no. However, the country is increasingly focussed towards sustainability. The creation of the UAE Food Bank in 2017 and the #zerofoodwaste campaign by Dubai Municipality, along with the announcement earlier this year from Mariam Almheiri, the UAE minister of State for Food Security, about the country aiming to cut its food waste by half over the next decade, demonstrates the country’s direction in educating and changing the market habit.

The FoodKarma platform is newly launched, having only been operational from March 1 this year. Of course, with global events and the impact of Covid-19 on all industries, especially the F&B industry, it has proven to be a very challenging time to launch and gain traction. That said, we are starting to see a great concern and response on the customer side since the launch and have received many enquiries to help support companies.

What about F&B operators? Are they more conscious about preventing wastage?

One of FoodKarma’s ambitions is educating the market on both the customer and merchant side. There are already several restaurant kitchen softwares helping reduce food waste through different processes, which demonstrates how the F&B industry in this country is clearly aware of the problem. But outside of this, they have had little option to help solve, or at least mitigate the issue.

Since launch, we have seen incredible interest in the platform and we have received support from a number of partners notably Appetite, Armela Farms, Cooloo Tamam, Dusit Thani Dubai, Jones The Grocer, Kaak Kaaaak, Keto By Foxxy, Levant Corner, Sandwiches &, Soul Santé Café, The Monk, The Roost Rotisserie, The Vietnamese Sandwich Co, My Govinda’s, Ultra Brasserie, and Wild & The Moon.

Local F&B operators have been hit hard by the pandemic. What is the outlook going ahead?

The sad truth is that a lot of amazing homegrown eateries have had to close down, and at a really early stage of this crisis. The closure of dine in, and also pick up, left all the restaurants with delivery only, where a certain percentage of their sales also has to be given to the delivery company.

Having launched during the pandemic and witnessing what was happening to the F&B industry, we made the decision to provide the FoodKarma platform to our partners at no commission up to September, and without any hidden costs and expenses. We have also been subsidising the delivery element (up to 14km radius) of our offering, so the merchant can see the full return on sales.

Unfortunately, we expect that we will see more of the standalone concepts having to shut down, as the recovery from Covid-19 is slowly just starting and will take time.

Will we see the rise of more such collaborative platforms to support the industry?

We hope so, and we have seen a move towards providing more favourable terms to vendors, but there is still a long way to go to help make typical platforms more accessible for small vendors.

Lastly, what are your future plans? Are you looking at expanding regionally?

We have had an incredible learning experience since launch, in a good and bad way. We have seen that there is a complete lack of options in the market to address the issues we are trying to address. However, we believe that with the right partners and understanding, there is enormous potential for the FoodKarma platform to help the market reduce the issue, as has been the case in other countries with great success. We have also seen a huge need for a platform of this sort in wholesale and retail and we are exploring these options currently, with plans to launch a wholesale platform soon.

The expansion of the app outside of the UAE is definitely on the map, and in discussion. Data from the Food Sustainability Index, developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit, revealed that the UAE and the Arab region as a whole, were among some of the poorest performers when it came to reducing food waste. So there is a lot of work to be done and we are looking at it actively.

A big part of the desire to launch FoodKarma was borne out of the reality of the huge disparity between the amount of food wasted and the amount of people who struggle to survive and feed themselves. We would love to utilise the platform to address this and we already have a number of projects in consideration for this, including outside of the UAE.

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