Shelf life

Why Shelf Engine is Partnering with Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Shaun White, and Shawn Mendes to Eliminate Food Waste

Celebrities join the ranks of Shelf Engine investors to help spread the word about the food waste crisis.
Stefan Kalb by Stefan Kalb

What’s something that each of us has in common? We all have connections to food. As one of the key elements of culture (I grew up in France and could go on and on here—maybe some other time), food plays a starring role in our lives. Yet we all know that food is not abundant for everyone.

What you may not know is how much food is actually wasted right where you buy it—at the supermarket. That’s why we’re so honored to announce that Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Shaun White, and Shawn Mendes have all linked arms with us at Shelf Engine to help fight grocery food waste. Their voices help amplify an urgent message—the scope of an often overlooked problem, and what each of us can do to help solve it.

Understanding the 43 billion pound food waste problem

Grocery stores are certainly not the only place where food waste crops up—it occurs at every point along the food supply chain. The many stages of farming, production, packaging, transport, and storage are all rife with opportunities for waste, and that’s all before food even hits the shelves at your favorite grocery store. Peeking behind the curtain of grocery retail operations reveals even more avenues for waste.

Imagine you’re a grocery buyer. It’s your responsibility to order products for your store (or stores!) to have the right items on hand at the right times for your customers. That may not sound too tricky on the surface. After all, suppose you’ve worked in your store for a period of time and you have a good sense of what your patrons need and want. Now layer in the fact that the average supermarket has over 28,000 products and suddenly the task starts sounding downright impossible to do well with consumer preferences changing constantly.

This is the frustrating reality for many grocery store buyers. They may have computer-assisted ordering tools to assist with the task, but those were largely built for products with long shelf lives—not the highly perishable items that contribute so significantly to the food waste problem. Computer-assisted technology is also still quite manual, making it error-prone and exacerbating the complexity of ordering with any kind of reliable accuracy. It’s no wonder why this process yields so much food waste.

Shelf Engine takes over the tedious task of ordering for retailers

Nearly 1 in 4 American households experienced food insecurity in the last year, yet 30-40% of the food supply in the US is going to waste; it’s clear we have a pressing economic and environmental crisis on our hands. That’s the underpinning of Shelf Engine’s mission to reduce food waste through automation. It’s this same focus on sustainability, consumer awareness, and urgent action that has prompted DeGeneres, de Rossi, White, and Mendes to partner with us to join the fight against food waste.

“When I heard how much food is actually wasted at grocery stores, I simply couldn’t believe it,” White said. “The statistics are staggering and ignoring the grim reality of the food waste crisis wasn’t an option. No exaggeration—what Shelf Engine is doing will change the way you look at food forever, and I want to help people see the food they buy in a new way.”

What we do at Shelf Engine is take over the task of ordering for food retailers. Our grocery order automation solutions use advanced statistical models, machine learning, and neural networks to forecast consumer demand and order the most accurate amounts of highly perishable items. This not only eliminates the guesswork of ordering at the store level, it also frees up time for store personnel to focus more on assisting you, their customer. Best of all, it drastically reduces the food waste generated in stores.

Consumers play an important role in fighting food waste too. There are a number of things that you and I can do in our daily lives to help. Simple shifts like creating a meal plan for your household and getting creative about how to use what’s on hand before you head to the store can add up to a big impact. With help getting the word out from DeGeneres, de Rossi, White, and Mendes, we have an opportunity to combine retailer impact and consumer action to reduce food waste even more dramatically.

Celebrity investors unite with Shelf Engine to scale a solution

“Every step we take to eliminate food waste is a step closer to solving food insecurity across the globe,” DeGeneres said. “Shelf Engine is leading this fight against waste at retailers and grocery stores. The aim is to reduce the amount of fresh food that’s thrown away every day. Portia and I are honored to partner with Shelf Engine. I think it was Madonna who said, ‘Waste not, Want not.’ And we couldn’t agree more. It was either Madonna or Cher.”

Since we began in 2016, Shelf Engine is proud to have already helped retailers divert 5.2 million pounds of food waste from landfills. How, and how quickly, we respond to environmental challenges will have enormous ramifications on the generations that follow ours.

Having such influential voices as DeGeneres, de Rossi, White, and Mendes helping educate consumers and retailers on how they can take action to reverse this trend is invaluable. It’s going to take all of us using our gifts, tools, voices, and talents to reduce food waste across the globe and I feel so fortunate to join forces with these four individuals who share the same goal.

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