On the up · 2 August 2018

“Ugly but delicious”: Oddbox founders are tackling a global crisis with their wonky veg

The startup is delivering ugly produce to Londoners
Inspired by Portuguese markets, this couple returned home and began their business venture centred around misshapen produce.

Co-founders Emilie Vanpoperinghe and Deepak Ravindran created London’s first and only wonky veg box subscription scheme which tackles food waste on farms.

Two years ago, Oddboxbegan sourcing misshapen and surplus produce for a fair price from farms and delivering to homes and offices in London for a 30% saving.

As part of our “I fell in love with my co-founder” series, Business Advice caught up with the pair to discuss how a romantic holiday triggered entrepreneurial success and how they are tackling one of the UK’s biggest problems.

Founded: 2016

Turnover: 600, 000?

Employees:£5 full-time staff and 16 part-time self-employed packers and drivers.

How did you both meet?

We met in India. Emilie had moved from France to India for a finance role with 3M, and Deepak was also working with 3M and so we were colleagues there. We are married now.

What inspired you to start a business together?

It all started at a market in Portugal.We were on holiday and every day we would go to the local market to do our shopping where we would buy these huge and seriously ugly tomatoes which were truly delicious.

That’s when we started wondering why we couldnt find these at home and why all the tomatoes in the supermarkets in the UK all looked so perfect but were also perfectly tasteless.

“When we came back from Portugal, the first thing we did was research about the produce supply chain and that’s when we realised the extent of food waste.What we found was shocking “

The estimates vary however at least a third of the food we produce each year is thrown away and never consumed. In the UK alone, we waste food in our farms, markets and homes to the tune of 10m tonnes a year worth 17bn.

So on the one hand, we waste a lot of the food we produce and on the other hand food poverty affects millions of people in the UK and food poverty is increasing. Food poverty is not a poor country issue. It is a major issue in the UK as well.

In the UK, one in four parents skip meals and a lot of children are having their only meal at school and are seriously malnourished affecting their health and learning abilities. What shocked us even more is the enormous amount of resources which goes into producing the food we end up wasting.

For example, it takes 800 litres of water to grow 1 kilo of banana in addition to the land usage, the labour and the fuel to transport these bananas to the UK so wasting food already produced in an enormous drain on resources. If food waste were a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China so we can significantly address the issue of climate change by reducing the amount of food we waste.

And you would think that a lot of waste happens in our homes and in supermarkets however a huge amount of waste also happens in our farms. And that is mainly due to tight criteria which force growers to over-produce in addition to demand supply fluctuation.

We wanted to do something about it and knew that we were not the only ones who would be happy to eat ugly but delicious tomatoes and that’s how we started Oddbox.

What specific roles do you both have?

Emilie is the CEO and CFO having 15 years experience managing teams in finance and operations and Deepak is the COO and CTO, having over 15 years experience in project management in the financial services and in IT.

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co-founders

 


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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