Co-op Group links up with Microsoft to launch food waste platform

Caboodle, a non-profit digital service, will link shops and hospitalities with community groups to redistribute surplus food

An online platform to tackle food waste is being trialled under a partnership between the Co-op Group and Microsoft.

 Caboodle is a not-for-profit digital platform which will connect supermarkets, cafés and restaurants with community groups and volunteers to redistribute surplus food.

The project, supported by technology consultancy BJSS and Team ITG, is being tested by environmental charity Hubbub, which runs the Community Fridge Network – another project which has had involvement from the Group.

Studies by climate action group Wrap find that in the UK around 1.1 million tonnes of food goes to waste every year, and although efforts are being made to tackle this, the redistribution process can still be difficult for community groups.  While overall surplus food redistribution has trebled between 2015 and 20201, 200,000 tonnes of food still goes to waste that could have been redistributed. 

Built on Microsoft’s Power Platform technology, Caboodle aims to “create a single place where food retailers and businesses across the hospitality sector can connect with volunteers and community groups in every city, town and village in the UK, helping to share food when and where it is needed”.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, interim CEO of the Co-op Group, said: “The amount of good quality surplus food that’s not currently being redistributed is astounding.  

“We’re currently trialling Caboodle in over 100 food stores and the results we’re seeing so far are incredible. We’ll be rolling it out across our entire estate next month and hope that all other retailers and businesses within hospitality will see the benefit too.  

“The more organisations use Caboodle the simpler and more effective it will be for volunteers and community groups to gain access to good food.”

The platform, which is currently being trialled at Group stores in Northern Ireland, Milton Keynes and London, goes live next month across a further 2,500 food stores. It is open to a range of charities and community groups, from food banks and family support networks to youth groups and schools and more – and organisations can register now to be notified of when Caboodle is operating in their area.

Caboodle will make it easier for supermarkets, cafes and restaurants to share their surplus food on a daily basis, says the Group. Community groups will be able to book and schedule slots, receive live notifications when new slots are available and gain access to volunteers easily via a digital noticeboard.

Estelle Herszenhorn, food lead at Wrap, said: “Surplus food redistribution has been a success story over recent years. 320,000 tonnes of food was saved from going to waste between 2015 and 2020 worth £1bn, and providing the equivalent of 220 million meals. But much more good food is still going to waste that could feed people.

“Innovations like Caboodle that can help to overcome common barriers and ease redistribution of surplus food are really exciting and have the potential to make serious inroads into the 200,000 tonnes that WRAP estimates could still be redistributed.”

Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub, said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the development of Caboodle by providing insight from communities and trialling the platform with our Milton Keynes Community Fridge. We’re passionate about supporting initiatives that help to reduce food waste and have a positive impact on the environment.”

Richard Smith, deputy head of food supply at food charity the Felix Project, said: “As a charity which has tested Caboodle and is already seeing the benefits, we know it will make a real difference to others like ourselves.

“The process for us is just easier and unlike other systems it works in a way that allows us to notify stores if we can’t make our collection slots – offering the slot to another group nearby saving food from going to waste at a time when so many are in need of it.”