Tech Company Winnow Focuses on Food Waste at the Source

Kate Reed

The London-based company Winnow seeks to help restaurants and chefs reduce their food waste through innovative technologies. A three-step system designed for busy kitchens allows restaurants to keep track of what exactly gets thrown away. Chefs can take the detailed reports Winnow Systems produces into account to build more efficient and less wasteful practices. Food Tank had the opportunity to talk to Marc Zornes, Winnow co-founder, about waste, changing behavior, and technology.

Food Tank (FT): How does Winnow technology gather waste data for businesses? 

Marc Zornes (MZ): Winnow is a tech company making cutting edge technology to help chefs measure, monitor, and dramatically reduce food waste. We believe that food is far too valuable to waste, and that technology can transform the way we use food.

Kitchens using Winnow know exactly what they’re putting in their bins. The kitchen team uses a touch screen tablet to identify what they’re throwing away. An electronic scale records the weight and sends a message to the user, giving the cost of the food they’ve put in the bin. The meter is connected to cloud software that records and analyses the day’s waste. This gives chefs the information necessary to drive improvements in their production processes to cut food waste in half, saving money and reducing their environmental footprint at the same time. The data helps chefs make better decisions, engage staff, and give them a clear focus by setting targets.

FT: What was the inspiration behind creating the Winnow technology?

MZ: I was struck by the food waste statistics when I first learned about them: one-third of all food is wasted from farm to fork and if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world behind the U.S. and China. I started Winnow as I saw a huge opportunity in solving the problem of food waste and he’s a strong believer that technology can help us change the way we make food.

FT: What is some of the interesting feedback you have been receiving from clients?

MZ: Using the information the Winnow system provides, chefs are able to adjust their production volumes, cooking the correct amount of food the next day and reducing waste. Our clients find the system simple and intuitive to use. It allows them to record waste in a fraction of time, with assurance that all sources of waste are captured daily. Our data shows that on average, a kitchen adopting the Winnow system sees over one percentage point of food cost saving within the first quarter, and on average we see waste cut by 50 percent or more over a year. 95 percent of our sites see a positive return on investment within the first year.

FT: How has this technology impacted the food industry and waste reduction efforts?

MZ: In approach we are solving the problem of food waste at its root. Rather than focus on disposing of waste we prevent food from being wasted in the first place. From a sustainability and commercial perspective, it makes more sense considering the impact of collection, energy and labor costs that the standard practices fail to address.

So far we have saved our clients over US$3.3 million by helping reduce their food waste by using the Winnow System. The system is extremely effective for hospitality businesses—our customers typically save between three and eight percentage points on food cost. For a large hotel or staff restaurant, this translates to tens of thousands of dollars saved each year, every year. 

FT: How do you anticipate Winnow evolving in the future?

MZ: We have proved that food waste cannot only be reduced, but can be reduced profitably. Winnow is a real win-win for business and the environment. We are expanding internationally as the hospitality sector sees real value in tackling food waste. We are working with top brands including Compass Group and Accor Hotels, with operations in 14 countries. We opened our second office in Singapore in October 2015 to help solve the issue of food waste for the hospitality industry in the region. We believe that Winnow has application in virtually every professional kitchen globally.

FT: What do you believe individuals can do in their own homes to reduce their food waste?

MZ: People often buy more food than they need and allow the excess food to go to waste. Reducing food waste requires that consumers take responsibility for their food consumption. By planning meals and waiting until perishables are all used up before buying more can help reduce the amount of food thrown away. There are also many new apps aiming to change consumer behavior and have been developed to help them to reduce food waste in their homes.

Learn more about Winnow here