Let's Talk Farm to Fork

Letitia Walker from Kitche

December 15, 2021 Season 1 Episode 16
Let's Talk Farm to Fork
Letitia Walker from Kitche
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of "Let's Talk Farm to Fork", we're joined by Letitia Walker from Kitche, who we will be talking to about how their food waste app is not only helping consumers reduce the amount of food they waste each year, but also helping them save large amounts on their annual grocery bills. 

https://kitche.co/

Voiceover:

Welcome to let's talk farm to fork, the PostHarvest podcast that interviews people, making an impact in the fresh produce sector. We'll take a deep dive into what they do and find out how they're helping to reduce the amount of food lost or wasted along the farm to fork journey. But before we get started, did you know that according to the UN's food and agriculture organisation, around 45% of the world's fruits and vegetables go to waste each year? If you would like to learn more about how you can practically play your part in maximising fruit and vegetable supplies, whether you're a part of the industry or simply a consumer. Visit PostHarvest.Com and try out their free online course library today. Now time for your host Mitchell Denton.

Mitchell Denton:

Hi there and welcome to "Let's Talk Farm to Fork", the PostHarvest podcast that interviews people of interest across the food supply chain. Today on our show, I'm joined by Letitia Walker from Kitche, who I'll be talking to about how their food waste app is not only helping consumers reduce the amount of food they waste each year, but also helping them save large amounts on their annual grocery bills. So with no further delays, let's get started. Hi Letitia, thanks for joining me on the podcast today. How are you?

Letitia Walker:

Um, Hey Mitch, thanks so much for inviting me. I'm great. Currently nursing my morning coffee, which is always a highlight. And how are you doing?

Mitchell Denton:

I'm doing well, it's actually the end of the day here. So I'm kind of ending on a high note with this interview. But before we get into it, I just wanted to give you the opportunity to tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. And while you're at it, maybe just a fun, little fact about yourself that most people don't know.

Letitia Walker:

So, my name's Letitia, but people call me Tish and I'm from England, Bristol, which is where I'm based at the moment. And I work for a household food waste app called Kitche, which I'm sure we'll talk a lot more about the later. My background's in psychology, particularly behaviour change in consumption patterns. And I'm interested in global perspectives, global solutions and the fields of cultural psychology in particular. And A fun fact about me, which I don't think everyone knows, but definitely, definitely those most close to me. But I've studied in five different universities in five different countries, none of which are England. So I'm a bit of, a bit of a nomadic nerd. I mean, you could say.

Mitchell Denton:

That's fantastic. Psychology that, that's, um, that's brilliant. Cause I actually have a question that I wanted to ask you relating to Kitche, but before I get too far ahead of myself, continuing on from you telling us what you do, would you mind telling us about how Kitche first came about and how Kitche is managing to locally fight against food waste in one of the most practical measures?

Letitia Walker:

So Kitche, was the brainchild of our CEO and co-founder Alex. Um, and he came up with the idea about five years ago and he was walking in a park with his friends. And, A little side note. If you know, Alex, he's a very conscious, organised individual who loves cooking. So for him, food waste is not a problem. He knows what's in his fridge, he knows how to use it. Um, he's, he's virtually, he claims he's virtually zero waste and I very much trust him. And he was walking with some friends and they were complaining about how much money they wasted on food. Alex, who works in tech. He's currently working at Google as well as Kitche, was like, "There must be a technological solution to this, there must be an app?" And he looked into it and there really wasn't anything out there. And I think the more Alex started to research it, the more it became his mission. Um, and that's yeah, that's why Kitche was born.

Mitchell Denton:

Hm.

Letitia Walker:

And what Kitche is, is a free home food waste app. We're currently only based in the UK, but, um, we're thinking of expanding in the US and Australia would definitely be our first locations because of language. And at it's very core, it's designed to target long-term behaviour change. So we're looking to change food waste behaviour in the household. And Kitche works by providing our users with tools and resources to help them simply buy what they eat and eat what they buy. For instance, if you're a Kitche user, you go to the supermarket, you can import all the foods you bought by just scanning a receipt. And once the food is imported, Kitche categorises, sets reminders for each product. So For instance, if you import a meat product, we'll say three days, you'll get reminders saying "you've got meat in the fridge, you've got chicken use it up". or a cupboard product after a month, we'll say "you've got nuts in your cupboard". Um, and then we also offer some additional features to help you solve the problems. So you can, select different products and filter recipes. So you have a tomato, and an onion, and a cucumber, and you can find recipes with those three products in. And we also, we offer tips and every week we give our users a report about how much food they've wasted, the associated costs. Um, and currently we're working on including emission data, you know, how much water you've saved. Um, yeah, so that's, that's the main core of the app and that's how it works. And recently, we've just been working, with a grant funded project to gamify the app. So you now win bronze, silver or gold spoons for positive food waste behaviour. So yeah, that's, that's Kitche in a nutshell.

Mitchell Denton:

I love that. When, you were saying tips, are you referring to like storage tips? Like what, what is that?

Letitia Walker:

Yeah, so we go Kitche tips, which is like a whole tab section of the app. And it's like all sorts of things. It can be quite food waste based. So, storage tips, how to use up your milk, what to do with peels, or it can also be a bit broader. So you know, why eat organically, what's in season this month. But yeah, just to promote sustainable food consumption. Um, and also, yeah, if people do have a certain food in their fridge, just to help them know what to do with it. And we change the tips each week. We have a tip of the week, each week to keep people involved and excited.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah. Wow. That's brilliant. So is there a psychological factor or factors at play when it comes to users adopting technology? Specifically Kitche in this case, in an effort to reduce their food waste contributions?

Letitia Walker:

Yes. You're asking the psychologist. So many factors.

Mitchell Denton:

This was the question. This is the one that I was wanting to ask.

Letitia Walker:

Um, yeah, I mean, so, so many factors that come into play. I think one of the most important things to remember with an app is how many apps are out there. So I think that in a study in the beginning of this year, there was just shy of 9 million apps in the world globally. Um, so I think. It's probably more by now, and they're all out there competing for your attention. And I'm afraid like the most sticky apps, which is app slang for addictive, are social media, like Instagram and Facebook and ones where you can scroll and you're continuously getting, you know, endorphin hits from new and exciting things that match the clever algorithms tell you like, so it's definitely a challenge to keep our users engaged, um, when that's, who we're competing against, um, which is why we've introduced features like tip of the week and gamification. But equally, I think one really good thing about food waste as an environmentally destructive behaviour in terms of changing the behaviour, is as a direct cost to the individual, so it's expensive. Whereas a lot of like these environmentally bad behaviours like eating meat, the cost is very hidden for the consumer. It's more a societal or larger environmental cost, but we can actually, you know, pinpoint this. You're wasting money and that's a lot easier to change behaviour from there. Because our users can directly reap benefits from saving money. And I think this also means that our audience is not just green warriors, but also, lower income families, or financially savvy people, um, which is really, really helpful. So yeah, they're two kind of different like psychological challenges that we had to overcome when creating the app.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah. no, that's genius. So wanting to develop an app that can help users track their purchases is one thing, but developing an app that can provide recipes from listed home ingredients is a whole other beast. So I guess my question is, why do it? Why go above and beyond with your food waste solution? When showing users how wasting food is hurting their pockets could surely be enough, you know?

Letitia Walker:

Yeah. I mean, it's definitely one thing highlighting the problem. And I think it's very important in changing intentions and belief about food waste, because I think people actually don't know that they're doing it. Um, but I think, and as I mentioned earlier, behaviour change is like our core mission and unless people know how to respond, and act, and the solution, I don't think we are going to change behaviour. And in fact, I think without presenting a solution. So in our case, this is the recipes, the hacks, we have a shopping list function. People will actually develop cognitive dissonance, and respond by retreating and avoiding the problem. And we could actually like exasperate the issue. So I think as I mentioned earlier, we need both elements for behaviour change and highlighting the problem would not be enough, and we have to give the solution as well.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah, definitely. It sounds like a bit of a carrot in the stick type scenario.

Letitia Walker:

Totally, and yeah, I mean, within the app, we used to just give sticks to our users being like, you've wasted this much food, but we're trying to give carrots as well. Um, so you waste this much food, but you're also doing well.

Mitchell Denton:

No, that's great. No, I love that. So what's something people seem to misunderstand about Kitche when it comes to users playing a more practical role in food waste prevention?

Letitia Walker:

So. I mean, I think one misunderstanding or false expectation, is that you expect that you'll download Kitche and boom, you're a zero waste guru.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah.

Letitia Walker:

Um, and it's kind of the same when you join the gym and you're like, "Dang, where's my abs?" Um, so yeah, I mean,our users actually needed to engage, um, and they need to like actively interact to see positive results. And it takes time to get into zero waste, it takes time to change food waste habits, it takes time to change any habits. But I mean, we're definitely making it a lot easier than if they were going at it alone. I think that's something I, I almost want to give people a disclaimer like, "you're not just going to download it, but please, please come back".

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah, definitely, definitely. So, what do you think is the biggest challenge Kitche must overcome in order to truly make an identifiable impact on not just the food industry, but also the nation's food security right now?

Letitia Walker:

Um, so yeah I think, our biggest obstacle is actually making a business that's driven by impact and not money, um, which like goes against the grain of like our current capitalist system. And it is actually such a challenge, and we're trying to develop a free app, and we're never gonna charge our users. Which means we have to rely on councils and supermarkets to jump on board and work with us and, you know, support our mission. So that we can keep improving and expanding. And yeah, this is, I mean, this is a challenging for any startup, but I think a sustainable startup it's particularly difficult. And in terms of food security, I mean, Kitche is targeting local food waste, but I really think the relationship between food waste and food security greatly transcends national boundaries. And, you know, we need local solutions like Kitche for sure, but on a global scale to have a real, tangible impact on food security and food, food redistribution.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah, I couldn't agree more. So from where you stand, what would you identify as being one of the biggest pain points or blind spots when it comes to food waste on a retail and consumer level? And what practical measures do you think could combat this?

Letitia Walker:

So yeah, blind spots. So, from a Western perspective, because the nature of food waste drastically changes around the world. The pain point is that it's actually largely a consumer's problem. So in the UK, 70% of food waste, is in households, which is huge. And I think this fact really surprises people because they believe, that food waste comes from supermarkets and the hospitality sector, and you know, the supply chain, but actually it's that like end slice of bread that you throw away last week, that's really, that's like really the issue. I mean, I feel also that equally the corporations, you know, they're encouraging us to buy too much, special offers, buy three, get a fourth, you don't need that fourth. Um, but I think in terms of how we can combat this, we just need to make people more aware, and equally give them solutions like Kitche, but yeah, appeal to like the individuals, the household, and, you know, empower people to feel that an individual change in their food waste can have an impact on a collective level. So yeah, this, this is one of the biggest pain points, but it's also quite, you know, it can really inspire people because it is the individuals. So it's a pain point, but it's also a benefit of the nature of the issue.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah. absolutely. So has the COVID pandemic for better or worse, seen any unique shopping behaviours from users?

Letitia Walker:

Yeah. I mean, I don't know what it was like in Australia, but there was some crazy shopping behaviours here in the UK.

Mitchell Denton:

Oh yeah, definitely. Definitely.

Letitia Walker:

As if we're entering Apocalypse, in relation to food waste, so, I'm actually going to pull some statistics from Wrap, which they're, they're our friends and they're the government body who do a lot of research about food waste in the UK. And they did a lot of, they did a lot of surveys, during the COVID pandemic and they found that, food waste in the first lockdown fell by 40%, which was huge. And this was mainly due to like batch cooking and freezing, um, eating leftovers.. And it, it remained lower than pre-pandemic levels throughout the first half of 2020, but a recent report that came out said that food waste in the UK is actually back to the same levels as before the pandemic. I mean, what, what this really showed was that, the reason people waste food is because they're actually really busy and they have other things to think about. Whereas when they're in the house, they had to shop less, they had time to, you know, put into food. They probably had less disposable income. So they weren't just buying food for the sake of it. Um, but yeah, I mean, yeah, I think it was real interesting. I mean COVID pandemic was like a great experiment for a lot of things. Wasn't it? In particularly, um, why are we wasting food? But in terms of our users, they've massively grown during the pandemic, but we actually only released Kitche on iOS last August, maybe it was the year before. Yeah 2019, so during COVID, so it's always difficult to pinpoint the exact impact of the pandemic and our launch, but yeah, our users have like increased consistently throughout this period.

Mitchell Denton:

Hmm, it's funny because here in Australia, we've had multiple lockdowns at this point. We're still currently in a lockdown where we're about to make our way out of it, but it's been a very long journey and. Uh, exactly what you're saying. I feel like there's been like two different sides to this where people, like you're saying I've been like bulk cooking meals and preparing meals and just making use of, of what's in the house. And then other people have been using food delivery services like crazy. And, um, there's been like this balancing act and I have to put my hand up and say that I'm kind of caught in the middle of this where it's like, I've been like preparing meals. I've been getting very experimental in the kitchen and, and whipping up some fantastic meals. And then there's those days where I'm just completely burnt out and I'm relying on the food delivery services. But, there seems to be no real middle ground, it's like people are either ordering in all the time, or they're preparing what they have in the house. So it's been a very interesting, like two years stretch down here in Sydney.

Letitia Walker:

Yeah. I mean our choices and freedom of just been stripped from us and yeah, in terms of what we can do with food, which I think has actually been quite good.

Mitchell Denton:

Oh, totally. I, I personally hope that I can hold onto some of the routines and habits that I've developed in this time. I feel like I've gotten to a place where I've gotten really good at, at preparing, uh, elements of, of my breakfast and my lunch for the next day, the night before. And like, I, I've just, I've kind of mapped. With the home office, being able to like prepare meals properly in amongst everything. And so it's, it's been both on a food health level, quite good, and just in a financial level, it's been quite beneficial as well. So, for me personally, as these lockdowns start to kind of ease off, I need to find a way to hold on to some of these good habits that I've formulated. But yeah, it's kind of a shame to, to hear the waste levels in the UK have kind of returned.

Letitia Walker:

I know, I mean, yeah. That was a really recent statistic that was in June. And we came out of the lockdown, oh, when did we come out of lockdown again? I think about May. So that is also what was scary, was it was really quick to return. But, yeah, I mean, I hope more people like you, you know, are actively, like I'm going to keep these positive habits. Um, and there were lots of positive habits that came out of lockdown people doing more walks as well. People were becoming more healthy. Um,

Mitchell Denton:

definitely.

Letitia Walker:

I mean, it's, it's a bit sad.

Mitchell Denton:

I mean, I, I think there's a bit of a, a pendulum swing situation, where the, the lockdown has obviously it's been around for a decent amount of time, but it was a very extreme situation for a majority of people. So I find kind of coming out the other side of that, I think people are like, "Oh my gosh, I want to go to my favourite restaurant or whatever, and catch up with all my friends". And so I think there's this like pendulum swinging the other direction, at least initially of like, I want to do all the things that I haven't been able to do for so long. And I'm hoping. Cause that that will no doubt happen, but I'm hoping on the backend that we can kind of made in the middle somewhere, but who knows? We'll see where that goes.

Letitia Walker:

Yeah. I mean, I hope I hope you're easing of lockdown or you must be excited.

Mitchell Denton:

Oh, everyone here is itching at the heel. So everyone's gonna go crazy at least for the next few months. No doubt, especially over the Christmas break.

Letitia Walker:

Oh yeah, because your Christmas is is hot.

Mitchell Denton:

Oh yeah, exactly. So we have a hot, summery Christmas, so number one, everyone needs to get outdoors and get to the beach, and what have you. And then we just have not had any kind of social life and social life around eating and dining with other people. So like, like I said, I, I think there will be that extreme in the other direction and then hopefully a bit of a recorrection in the new year, but we will see.

Letitia Walker:

Yeah. I mean, hopefully that is what will happen in the UK. Um, and also we might go into the lockdown, so, whew.

Mitchell Denton:

Exciting, exciting. So all that to be said, is there a particular group or innovation within the industry that you're excitedly keeping a watchful eye on?

Letitia Walker:

um, Well, I mean, what PostHarvest does, sounds really cool. Um, but, um, yeah, I mean, I'm, I think my interest kind of lies in these far-fetched like tech solutions. Um, one that I'm, I'm particularly excited about seeing how it comes along is the cellular agriculture, which, which isn't food waste in particular, but it's food sustainability. So, you know, the cultured lab grown meat, And, you know, that would be so exciting to find an alternative to intensive farming. Um, but obviously this is still at very early stages and, you know, they've got huge challenges in terms of cost reduction. I can't remember. I was reading how much, like the first bit of like chicken nugget cost to develop and it was like billions or something.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah. Wow.

Letitia Walker:

But yeah, I mean, it's not directly linked to food waste, but it would also reduce the associate costs of like water, land, and emissions of throwing away meat. So, you know, I think this is like a really exciting direction of food sustainability. In terms of food waste, um, yeah, I mean, I hope that stuff like Kitche can really take off and we can just find simple solutions because it is just subtle changes in behaviour that need to happen. I don't think we need so much these like radical changes. I think maybe in other parts of the world, the food waste would be better solved with some, you know, just even better roads to get, to get food across the country. Um, so yeah, simple solutions, but also the very cool futuristic innovations are also very exciting, but there's, there's so much great stuff going on in this space. Um, and you know, as you know, food is, food is the crux of society. So, it's always going to be some, I mean, I really hope that food is obviously it largely the problem for our environmental crisis, but also is very much going to be involved in the solution.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah, no, that's great. So when it comes to food waste, food security, and sustainability. What's the biggest area you're most curious about and why? Or to put it in another way, what are some of the things the Kitche team are researching the most right now?

Letitia Walker:

Um, so something that both I'm curious about as well as Kitche, I think is using data for the force of good. So we collect quite a lot of data in our app, um, and you know, embracing the way that we can use this data on AI can help us live better. Um, cause obviously we have data-driven technology controlling, how we already shop, eat, interact, travel. And these like AI algorithms are super powerful. But they can also really help us and I think, you know, harnessing this technology for the force of good would be amazing. And it would be great if your AI could tell you, you know, you always buy a bunch of bananas each week, so instead of throwing them away, we're just going to add to your shopping list rather than a bunch, and advise you, you know, to buy a small carton of milk every week, because you know, we know how much you consume. Or even as far as like meal planning on Wednesday, we know you're gonna want to eat, um, pasta because you work out on Wednesday evening and just making it really simple for people would be really great. And then we don't give people, I mean, obviously you should always have the decision of what they eat, but you know, we can advise it a lot better than we're doing right now. And yeah. So I think that's something that Kitche really wants to start, um, looking into developing a bit more like clever and like personalised tech within the app. Using our data, which will be really exciting.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah. that's cool. I feel like I could really use that kind of input in my, regular shopping. That's, that's cool. That's exciting. So unfortunately, Letitia, we are coming to a close, but before we do, I just want to ask you, what is the number one takeaway you really want listeners to absorb from this episode?

Letitia Walker:

Food is precious and it belongs in our bellies and not our bins. Um, and yeah, I mean, I think if you can just make a small change, then food waste is a really good place to start. Cause you can have an impact and you don't have to be perfect. Zero waste. I mean, I even throw food away sometimes, but the unconscious can really help. Um, and if you're in the UK download Kitche, but if you're elsewhere, I'm sure there's some great local organisations that can help you and teach you, give you resources, tips, hacks. And yeah, yeah, food waste is just, it's just a crazy thing we do. It's so unnecessary, we don't really have to change the way we actually consume, we just have to make a very small conscious decision. Just yeah, to buy what you eat, and eat what you buy.

Mitchell Denton:

Food is precious. I love it. Well, that's all for today's episode of "Let's Talk Farm to Fork". Thanks for listening, and thank you Letitia for joining me.

Letitia Walker:

Thank you, Mitch. It's been a pleasure.

Mitchell Denton:

If you'd like to know more about Letitia and Kitche, check out the link in the description of this episode. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast that you never miss an episode, and don't forget to leave a review and share with your friends. Until next time you've been listening to "Let's Talk Farm to Fork", a PostHarvest podcast.

Voiceover:

We appreciate you joining us for this episode of let's talk, farm to fork, be sure to rate, review and subscribe. Also, if you would like to learn more about how you can practically play your part in maximizing fruit and vegetable supplies, whether you're a supplier, consumer, or anyone in between the farm to fork journey, visit PostHarvest.Com and try out their free online course library today.