Did you know 68% of all food produced ends up in landfill?

By managing and making efficient use of food sustainably and reducing waste, we can help businesses and consumers save money, bridge the gap within communities that do not have enough food and conserve sufficient resources for future generations.

Now that we are talking about the issue, there are many solutions to resolve this issue,  including OLIO, an Android application that helps small businesses and individuals  share surplus food with those in need.

How did OLIO start? Meet the founders

Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-one are the co-founders of OLIO. They share their story on how they individually realised they wanted to create a marketplace saving thousands of food items every other week.

Tessa grew up on her parent's dairy farm in North Yorkshire, England. She understands the hard work that goes into producing the food we consume. She wondered why there isn’t an app where she could share food with someone nearby who wanted it. That’s how OLIO was born. Saasha used to resell items like cans, which helped her earn some money. She learned that someone’s trash could be another person’s treasure.

Tessa and Saasha met in 2002 and became close friends. So when Tessa shared her idea about the food sharing app, Saasha instantly lit up and thought it was a brilliant idea and wanted to be part of the journey.

Bringing the idea into reality.

The company was incorporated on the 9th of February 2015. They decided to dedicate a year to making the idea work; if not, they would return to their regular jobs. They initially started by doing desk research to understand the intensity of the problem of food waste and found some pretty shocking details:

On average, nearly a third of the produced food is thrown away. An average family in the UK throws away £700 GBP worth of food, with an estimated £12.5 billion GBP in food waste that goes straight into the landfill. This does not mean that people want to throw away food. The duo researched and found that people were “pained” to throw food away. Most people throw away food because they don’t have an alternative.

The founders initially tested the idea by creating a group on Whatsapp, and it worked! To create a better platform, they worked for five months and launched their app in the App Store.


OLIO strives to create millions of local food sharing networks worldwide. They believe that OLIO can help make a world where nothing goes to waste- because waste still holds some value - and people have enough to eat without destroying Earth’s resources.

OLIO is a carbon negative company

OLIO is also estimated to be a carbon-negative company as they prevent more carbon emissions than they produce. However, the company is also committed to taking measures to reduce their carbon footprint and discovering ways to lower it - helping to keep global warming below 1.5°C.

The company has made a Carbon Negative commitment, which includes:

  1. Measure the organization’s global emissions and report them publicly every year.
  2. Add more details to beat net-zero and create interim targets to reduce emissions effectively.
  3. Continue to encourage the core work of reducing food waste.
  4. Appoint a senior leadership team member who would be entirely responsible for carbon emission targets.
  5. Communicate their commitment and efforts to customers.
  6. Report the progress to the Board and on the website.

Working to reach zero emissions:

99.3% of carbon comes from indirect emissions from OLIO’s value chain. The carbon emissions are primarily from:

  1. Users operations that carbon-heavy mobile data providers fuel.
  2. Website issue from preliminary design.

Values that OLIO abides by:

  1. OLIO is for everybody as the business purpose is all about mindset and not a specific demographic. People from different backgrounds and cultures are welcome to fulfil their universal vision.
  2. OLIO hates wastage of any sort. The money is invested carefully, and assets are well guarded.
  3. The company is also ambitious with its goals and strives to become a community of 1 billion OLIOers in 10 years.
  4. The OLIO community includes caring for each other, ourselves and the planet.

User Experience

What can you use the app for?

1. Get free food for yourself and your family.

2. Declutter items in homes and offices.

3. Make a meaningful contribution to your local community.

4. Meet and make friends around you.

5. Create less waste and better consumption of resources.

OLIO is a free app that helps connect neighbors and other local businesses and stores to share surplus food with those in need, rather than simply throwing it away. Users can take a picture of the food and add it to OLIO. Neighbor users receive alerts and can put up their requests. Pick up can be done at home, store or OLIO DropBox, or other agreed or mentioned location.

The scheme was initially started in North London before venturing to the rest of the UK and is now available for use for free all across the world.

The app has also added a non-food section where users can declutter their spaces and add the items to the app. Interested neighbors can take unwanted cosmetics, toiletries, cleaning products, light bulbs, and whatever else they need.

Additionally, the app’s growth is fueled by the 8,000+ OLIO ambassadors and volunteers who reach out to spread the word about OLIO in their respective locality. The app also recently launched a ‘Food Waste Heroes’ programme which helps to match OLIO volunteers with local businesses.

Solving food waste through tech

This app is free to download and connects users in their locality, which helps advertise surplus food by date. The app can be searched by location and the food that you want.

How much food can OLIO help to save/distribute?

After being launched in 2015, the app soared from zero to 100,000 users in less than a year. The app started in London, a city with many cafes, restaurants and bars, venturing out to other places where the mentioned establishments might not be as common.

But the question arises if OLIO will cater to smaller industrial towns around. This issue was very prevalent as one user wrote in a Google Play review that the app does not offer much in the north of the country .

OLIO competitor analysis and their USP

Recycling competition is undoubtedly very prevalent in the UK. OLIO is not the only recycling app, despite being well-received. The competition comes from Casserole Club, which helps users sell extra food portions.

Also, the Eatro app, which was titled the “app of the week” on Startacus, promises that people can earn money for their leftover food while they take a 12% commission.

However, OLIO has surpassed the benchmark that the Eatro app achieved; thanks to its unique and effective volunteering system, the app is being introduced to new and different towns and cities, paving the way for expansion.

OLIO also encourages volunteers to join the app via social media, helping them become ambassadors. Users are encouraged  to upload images of the food into the app and actively speak to local shops and cafes, be a part of the movement and add an OLIO dropbox for better accessibility. This also includes asking restaurants to pack and deposit food at the local store, i.e., give away extra food in the deposit maintained by local store - helping the store gain customers in the process.

Drawbacks and questions

Even though OLIO has been effective in eradicating the issue of food waste to a certain extent, the real question is that with more than 8 million people suffering from hunger in the country at the moment, shouldn’t the food be donated to food banks and to those who aren’t privileged enough to afford technology and devices to download such apps and benefit from it?

  1. Some people have reported development issues where the app is buggy to use, and it can be very frustrating.
  2. The users have appreciated the founders' intentions, but the app experience falls short. Scheduling pick-ups is hard, and managing the listings is also tricky.

Our thoughts

We think that OLIO is a fantastic app playing a significant part in bridging the problem of food waste and hunger more and more every day. The app has a unique and effective volunteering/ambassador programme that helps them create awareness to a new locale and expand the app use in the process. The app has significant potential and can include ways and new business models to deal with the drawbacks mentioned above.


1. How do you list in OLIO?

  • Start with deciding what you want to share and check the item's condition.
  • Add it to the listing and select the category.
  • Give a title for the item and a description that people want to know.
  • If it is food, set the expiry date for the food.
  • Add your location or pick up point.

2. How to request food in OLIO?

To obtain some free food listed in OLIO, all you have to do is download the free app and request it in the listing. You can also filter the food you want and the locality accessible to you.

3. Is OLIO a charity?

No, OLIO is not a charity. As an ambassador, you need to explain that OLIO is an exception to the store. OLIO would never get in the way of food banks. OLIO food heroes are only there to fill what charities cannot.

4.  Who is a food waste hero?

A food waste hero is a title coined by OLIO to the user who picks the unsold food from local stores and businesses and distributes it among the local community via the app.

5. Is OLIO available in Ireland?

OLIO has partnered with Tesco Ireland to distribute food via the OLIO app. The surplus food that cannot be donated to charities will be distributed via the app. Tesco Ireland and OLIO have also launched volunteering opportunities, starting from April 2021.

I hope you found this detailed review on OLIO helpful. Have you used OLIO before? If yes, let us know your experience and thoughts in the comments below!

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