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Style, innovation & equality

With ⅓ of all food produced globally being wasted, this fast-growing startup is here to do something about it

On World Food Day today, we speak to the food savers at Karma. With a mission to be a part of the first zero food waste generation, they’re now working on covering the full food value chain.

Interview: Johan Magnusson

Founded in Stockholm, November 2016, Karma’s app connects surplus food from restaurants, cafes and grocery stores to consumers for a lower price. As a result, users eat great food for less and businesses receive an additional revenue stream — all while reducing food waste.

CEO and Co-founder Hjalmar Ståhlberg Nordegren knew that together with a group of experienced entrepreneurs, they could apply their knowledge of building successful businesses and create something with real value and purpose.

— Myself and Elsa Bernadotte (COO), Mattis Larsson (CTO) and Ludvig Berling (CPO) started Karma initially as a deals app. After seeing the demand for food related deals and offers, we asked ourselves, how can we make this better? Looking deeper into the issue of food waste and researching it’s global environmental impact, we felt compelled to innovate within this space, and this brings us to the Karma you now see today, he says, continuing,

— We’ve been delighted to see the response and support from our community. We’re pretty confident that we have some of the best restaurants, cafes and kitchens in Sweden and London using Karma as a way to make their businesses better. In our native Sweden, 5% of the population have embraced Karma and use it for everything from smoothies to sushi. We’ve recently launched in Paris and are very much looking forward to seeing it work within in a city known for its outstanding cuisine.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

— Scaling the company at this speed over several countries has meant that it’s been challenging to keep the company culture scaling at the same pace but it’s something we're very proud we have prioritized. Another challenge has been to, while growing, identify where the market is heading and adapt to that. The thing with live adapting to the market is that you don’t know if you did it right until after the market shift has happened.

The company has already made a significant difference.

— We’re excited to have saved 600 tonnes of food so far! That equates to 47 double decker buses — it’s a huge volume of food, says Ståhlberg Nordegren.

Today is World Food Day. What are your feelings about it?

— I love it! It’s a great way to spread awareness, to show everyone what a stupid problem food waste really is and that it’s totally preventable. Our Key Account Manager Anita Cedergren is speaking at a seminar organized by Global Shapers Stockholm tonight and we’re excited to take part and spread the word about Karma’s mission to be the first zero food waste generation.

Sweden, UK and France. Any more markets coming?

— Absolutely! It's one of our best kept secrets so I can’t tell you which ones but there’s more markets coming in the very near future. We’re also working to cover the food value chain from farm to consumer and are working on some internal projects that will really help reduce food waste instead of just pre-selling your food at a discount like most other platforms in this space does, says Ståhlberg Nordegren. He adds:

— For any restaurant, cafe or grocery store owners reading this, maybe considering joining a food waste platform, make sure it’s one that will reduce your waste over time. Most platforms in this space will just discount your food and never tell you how to improve which just locks you in a food waste status quo. We’re passionate about making real change and helping our partner’s truly solve food waste.