Getting food into bellies instead of bins

Enterprise: Yume Food

Green Credentials: The surplus marketplace has saved over 3 million kilograms of edible products from going to waste.

While working at food rescue organisation SecondBite – a venture she was founding CEO of – Katy Barfield witnessed the enormous amount of edible food wasted in the commercial food sector, and was determined to do something about it. “The existing food supply system in Australia means that 7.6 million tonnes of food is discarded each year,” Katy explains, “and 42 per cent of that occurs in the commercial sector, within food manufacturers and primary producers, going to waste before it even reaches supermarkets or hospitality venues, let alone our homes.”

To address the issue, Katy founded surplus food marketplace Yume Food in 2016, to work closely with manufacturers and primary producers to understand their unique surplus-food problems. Yume provides tech solutions that prevent food from going to waste by selling surplus products to other businesses in the food industry that are committed to sustainable procurement and accessing high-quality products at a discount.

“Our technology also has the ability to connect suppliers to their preferred food charities, if a product is not sold on our platform,” Katy says. “Yume is designed to give surplus food every chance at its best possible life – that is, ending up on people’s tables.”

At Yume HQ, team members are very mindful about how they consume food – from where it has come from, to how it is packaged and what to do with it, they’re all really conscious of their choices. “While it’s not a prerequisite to be a vegetarian at Yume, we are pretty strict about using disposable cups,” Katy jokes. “We’re also in the process of convincing our building to allow us to use a worm farm.”

The business has a multi-faceted approach to addressing food waste: commercial buyers can purchase food for savings of up to 80 per cent via Yume’s online marketplace; suppliers can leverage this opportunity by selling their excess produce to those commercial buyers; and individuals can support Katy’s mission by becoming a ‘Friend of Yume Food’.

In November 2021, Yume reached a milestone of 3 million kilograms of food prevented from going to waste. At the same point in 2020, it had reached 2 million kilograms. “To prevent another million from being wasted in just 12 months is a testament not only to the tireless work of the Yume team, but also the change in attitudes within food manufacturers and primary producers,” Katy enthuses. “They are hungry for solutions to their food waste problems – and Yume has them. By saving 3 million kilograms of food, we’ve also been able to make a difference in the embedded environmental implications of food waste, stopping 659 million litres of water and 11.3 million kilograms of C02 from going to waste.”

Katy’s vision for Yume is that it becomes the one-stop solution for the management of ageing and surplus stock for all food manufacturers. “As we keep developing our technology, more manufacturers are seeing the value in what we do,” she says. “By keeping up this momentum and making businesses aware of the issues in their supply chain, Yume will take greater strides in eliminating the 3.2 million tonnes of food waste they are producing each year.”

This article first appeared in issue 35 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine