DENVER -- A Colorado Springs startup wants to keep food out of landfills and save some serious money.
Here's the idea: FoodMaven gets oversupplied food from wholesalers, retailers and grocery distributors that would normally get tossed and sells it to restaurants and institutions at a discounted rate.
Chef Geno Leage, the chef supervisor at Porter Adventist Hospital, said he knows a good deal on food when he sees one, so when he heard FoodMaven could cut some food costs in half, he signed up.
"I said, 'We just hit the jackpot!'" said Leage, who said in just a few weeks, he has already saved thousands of dollars buying everything from yellow rice to red cabbage for his cafeteria that serves more than 1600 people per day. "It's food that would have gone to a landfill. That makes me feel great because I'm not contributing to the negative. I'm contributing to the positive."
"Forty percent of everything U.S. agriculture produces is thrown away. Forty percent," said Patrick Bultema, the Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of FoodMaven, who blames oversupply, imperfect-looking food that's perfectly fine to eat, short expiration dates and a poor local food distribution system. "Nobody likes throwing away perfectly good food, but a third of what's going into landfills is food waste."
So FoodMaven acts as a sort of middle man, trucking extra food to its warehouse. They don't buy the food, though, they consign it. So they share profits after the sale instead of putting cash up front. The food they don't sell is donated to charities, pet food companies and even pig farms, with the goal of zero waste.
After a year of testing in Colorado Springs, FoodMaven launches next week in Denver restaurants, including some of the trendiest places where sustainability is a selling point.
"Zero-waste restaurants are very popular right now," said Dustin Skudlarek, a managing partner with 5280 Hospitality and the Stanley Beer Hall at the Stanley Marketplace.
He said they plan to team up with FoodMaven to benefit their community and their customers.
"You can definitely see discounts. We're not going to be greedy. We're going to pass through the savings," said Skudlarek.
FoodMaven's goal is to be in 2,000 Denver restaurants in the next 12 months.