Whether it’s buying from your local shop to growing your own, ROOTED LONDON promotes a conscious mindset when it comes to buying your weekly shop. We say no to food wastage and so when we came across OLIO, we had to chat with Co-Founder, Tessa Cook. Sharing is definitely caring, and when it comes to food sustainability the team behind the new food sharing app, OLIO, are revolutionising the way we combat food waste...
Let's set the scene…where are you right now?
At OLIO HQ in North London, surrounded by boxes of flyers, posters, fridge magnets and surplus food we’ve rescued!
How did you come to define to OLIO and its vision, and turn it into what it is today?
I was brought up on a dairy farm and so from a very young age learned just how much hard work goes into producing the food we eat every day. As a result of that I absolutely hate throwing away good food, and do whatever I can to avoid it. This experience inspired me to create OLIO, which is mobile app that connects neighbours with each other and with local independent shops & cafes so that anyone with surplus food can share it, rather than throw it away. Working with my Co-Founder Saasha, our small team, and our many volunteers, we’ve taken OLIO from a pilot in North London last summer to being available throughout the UK and Ireland. And in this short time the app has been downloaded over 45,000 times and used over 215,000 times to stop good food from going to waste. We’re absolutely delighted! But a long way to go still…
Where does the name OLIO come from?
OLIO means “a miscellaneous collection of things”, which is what you will see when you visit the app! It is also a traditional Portuguese stew and means oil in Italian, so has food roots too. And most importantly, we just really like the word!
How important is community to you now and with technology taking over 21st century life, how do you see our ‘communities’ changing?
We believe that most people want to feel connected in some way with their local community. And that’s one of the things people are telling us that they love most about OLIO – the fact that it’s harnessing technology to connect people with their neighbours in real life, in a way that’s really fun and easy to use. We also see communities wanting to stand up and solve some of the massive problems facing our society today, such as the insane amount of good food that goes to waste, while millions go to bed hungry every night.
The best advice you’ve ever received? Start small, and focus on delighting 100 people first.
What type of food/drink is most wasted in the UK?
According to WRAP the most wasted foods in the UK are bread (24m slices a year), milk (5.9m bottles), potatoes (5.8m) and carbonated drinks (4.2m). On OLIO our most commonly shared items are tea, chocolate, bread and fresh fruit and veg.
What’s a typical OLIO day for you and Saasha?
There’s absolutely no such thing as a typical day – which is one of the things we absolutely love about working on OLIO! But most days include supporting our volunteers (Ambassadors we call them) and helping them to spread the word about OLIO in their local communities; persuading local shops to sign up and host a Drop Box; working on the next great features for the app; and speaking to the media about what we’re doing. We’re also both Mums with young kids so working from home means we get to see our children too!
Last app opened?
A bit of a boring one, but very useful – Scannable, an app that enables you to easily scan and email documents for free.
Last book read?
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. A superb read for anybody wanting to start a business and not sure how to go about it!
Onto food, our mutual passion…What's your typical day on a plate?
Scrambled eggs with cheese & avocado or a fried breakfast – it’s my favourite meal of the day. At lunch I’ve really gotten into making food-waste busting smoothies with my favourite new gadget – the NutriBullet. Any fruit or veg that’s looking a bit wrinkled, or half eaten by my kids, gets thrown in there along with some full fat greek yoghurt, porridge oats and maybe some cinnamon or something. Yum! And dinner could be anything ranging from a stir fry to shepherd’s pie.
What’s your earliest food memory?
Probably picking fruit in my parents’ garden when we were very young – we had to pick for 1 hour and then were allowed 10 mins to eat as much as we wanted. We soon learned to spend that 10 mins picking as much as we could, and then eating ourselves silly later J
What would your last meal be?
Definitely a full Christmas lunch with all the trimmings. Followed by Christmas Pud with brandy butter, white sauce and golden syrup J
The latest restaurant that made you go oooo?
Menu Gordon Jones in Bath. An incredibly intimate restaurant that only seats about 16 people who all dine at the same time on a 7 course taster menu. The food, presentation and wine was beyond exquisite. Such a treat!
What (or how) does staying ROOTED mean to you?
Rooted for me is about real food. And real life. Taking care of both ourselves as individuals and also this planet we call home.
In 50 years from now, what is the one thing you want OLIO to be known and remembered for?
Helping stop the crazy state of affairs we have today where over 1/3 of all the food we produce is thrown away.
What’s next for OLIO?
Going global :)
In the next three years what innovation do you think will have the greatest impact on food sustainability?
This might seem like a bit of a biased answer, but I genuinely believe that marketplaces will have the greatest impact – whether it be businesses like OLIO or TakeStock that are trying to tackle food waste – or Food Assembly and Farm Drop who are trying to change the way we buy and consume our food.