Oddbox

overall rating:

3

planets

Eva Greneveckyte
3/25/2022
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Oddbox is an online subscription service that ship boxes of fruit and veg to people’s front doors all around London & the South East. Importantly, they only deliver produce that is “too-wonky” or in excess directly from farmers. To date, they’ve rescued over 14,000,000 kg of fruit & veg, donating surplus fruit & veg to charities that combat food poverty; they have also become certified B-Corp since June 2020.

Their core purpose is to fight food waste and help our growers by offering them a fair price for produce that might otherwise have gone to waste. Food waste is an important issue as growing food creates greenhouse gas emissions directly through fuel used for agricultural machinery, methane produced by cattle, and packaging and transportation. Emissions also come indirectly from to the loss of carbon sinks, like forests and grasslands, to create land for crops and grazing. So, wasting food leads to a lot of unnecessary emissions: Oddbox estimate that food waste accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, about 5 billion metric tonnes of CO2e. Also, 25% of the world’s fresh water used to grow food that is never eaten would be saved. I was overall extremely impressed with Oddbox and am excited to see how the company grows :)

 

What it's made of:

3

Every order comes in a cardboard box, with a different array of fruits and vegetables.

The fruits and veggies within each box are updated every single week, to make sure the produce is always seasonal. They only ever take produce from farmers which is 'odd' or surplus and was at risk of going to waste, because when food is wasted, all the energy, water and time that went into growing it is wasted too. Oddbox practice supply-led farming: they only buy produce from farmers when they have excess, rather than setting up strict contracts demanding what they should grow. I personally think many companies should take inspiration from this.

There are multiple sizes of Oddbox, ranging from extra small to large. This is ideal to reduce food waste, as customers don’t get any more than you need, but this also allows greatest amount of produce to be sold to reduce waste. A large box has 9 varieties of veg and 4 types of fruit, all of which were at risk of going to waste – this box alone can save 8kgs of CO2e & 1,803 litres of water. Customers also state 3 things they definitely do not want, or entire food groups (like citrus fruits), which further helps reduce waste. Despite this, one box can cost between £11 and £20. Oddbox asserts that a big part of the cost comes from the boxes, the logistical price of packing the boxes and respecting exclusions that customers have, but this price can still exclude people experiencing food poverty.

 

Only some of their produce is organic or pesticide-free. Although Oddbox values the importance of organic, pesticide-free and biodynamic produce, they are trying to reduce food wastage as much as possible and have been trying to collaborate with more organic farmers as the demand rises. 

The boxes are recyclable, and Oddbox collect old boxes to reuse them the next time they deliver a box. Some produce is packaged in plastic and their website doesn’t state whether this plastic is recyclable. Despite this, purchasing from Oddbox means there is significantly less plastic waste than from a normal supermarket shop. Most boxes do not contain any plastic at all, and the ones that do just aim to preserve food for as long as possible so that it does not spoil and contribute to more food waste. I would just suggest that Oddbox use recyclable plastic and encourage the consumer to recycle it. 

Also contains a small recipe card (printed on 100% recycled paper) with a couple of plant-based recipes using the abundance of produce in the delivery. This can help to reduce food waste, especially if customers receive something they have never seen before. I really like this idea and think it effectively shows how Oddbox do go the extra mile to reduce food wastage and ensure sustainable outcomes.

 

How it's made:

3

Oddbox currently only operates in the UK, delivering to addresses in London and the Southeast. Everything is shipped to customers overnight, which minimises transport emissions. This is because there is less traffic, meaning less stopping and starting and less time on the road. Alongside this, as each area has its own delivery night, Oddbox plans their routes in advance to be as efficient as possible. This leads to lower carbon emissions all round, and everyone getting their fruit and veg within 24 hours of it being packed in the Parkhall Business Centre in West Dulwich,which reduces spoilage.

Break down their carbon footprint, finding that 70% of emissions come from transport, and 20% from materials (the rest comes from utilities and waste). However, Oddbox plan to have a fully electric fleet of vehicles by 2025 and are already working with delivery partners to set up infrastructure for storing and charging vehicles.

Oddbox prioritise taking local and seasonal produce from the UK and have good long-standing relationships with a number of local suppliers. Sometimes use produce from other countries’ in-season produce. It happens mostly in the Winter and early Spring when the 'staples' like root veg and greens are primarily available in the UK, which hinders variety. Importantly, Oddbox state that they have a zero air-freight policy. This means they will never fly in any produce and always try to minimise the carbon footprint of transporting produce. This is very exciting to hear, but there can still be significant emissions from importing products via ship or train. On the other hand, this is a great way to prevent food in countries asides from the UK from going to waste whilst similar companies to Oddbox are set up.

Oddbox started tracking their carbon footprint at the end of 2019. They measure the carbon emissions and water use of different fruits and veg eaten in the UK (aka life cycle assessment data). They also acknowledge that if the fruit and vegetables they took could have been repurposed to animal feed, anaerobic digestion, or ploughed back into the field, they don’t claim it in the figures of how much carbon or water they have saved.

 

Who makes it:

3

Oddbox first launched in 2016, with their two founders, Emilie Vanpoperinghe & Deepak Ravindran. They noticed the difference in appearance of fruit and veg available in markets stalls and supermarkets in Portugal. After learning that up to 40% of all produce in the UK is wasted before it leaves farm because it doesn’t look “right” or because too much was grown, they started Oddbox. Since then, they’ve grown significantly with plans to go nationwide in the upcoming years.

They earned 93 in their B Corp report in 2020. They also won a Best for the World award, top-performing Certified B Corporations in the communities in which it operates, hires from, and sources from.

Oddbox releases a ‘Do Good Report’ annually. So far Oddbox have reportedly saved 1,222 million litres of water and 12,230 tonnes of CO2e. They plan on becoming net zero by 2030, by electrifying their fleets and switching how they power their warehouses to renewable energy. They have more plans soon, which they are planning to announce in the near future: I am personally very excited for this!

They support their workers, by increasing every employee’s holiday allowance and introducing non-sick days. Also, Oddbox supports their community by donates their leftover produce to the charities City Harvest, FareShare, The Felix Project and Kind who work to fight food poverty in the UK, redistributing food to those who need it most.

They are fighting food waste at farm-level by using supplier-led farming, avoiding CO2e emissions and saving water along the way. I am super impressed with Oddbox and definitely recommend trying them out – I personally will :-)