Complex Made Simple

Exclusive: Sodexo and Leanpath to launch AI-driven food waste reduction technology for F&B sector

In an exclusive interview with AMEinfo, Rachid Noujeim, CEO, Sodexo Middle East, answered our Q&A on the project, its objectives, and anticipated outcomes

According to the UAE Ministry of Climate Change, food wastage costs the UAE an estimated $3.5 billion per year WasteWatch supports small, medium, and high-volume kitchens to efficiently measure food wastage The program has proven, on average, to reduce food waste by 50% and food costs by 3%

Sodexo Middle East, a leader in services that improve the quality of life, has partnered with Leanpath, food waste prevention pioneers, to officially introduce a state-of-the-art food waste prevention program called WasteWatch powered by Leanpath (WWxLP). 

Sodexo Middle East will officially launch the innovative platform across 41 sites in Q3 of 2021.  

The environment-friendly platform is driven by AI algorithms that measure daily pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste by analyzing metrics such as weight, quantity, and food type. 

The WWxLP collates data on food waste, identifying wastage areas, and shares operational and behavioral changes required to eliminate waste.  

According to the UAE Ministry of Climate Change, food wastage costs the UAE an estimated $3.5 billion per year. 

Food wastage is a crucial global issue, with 1.3 billion tons of food lost or wasted every year.

In an exclusive interview with AMEinfo, Rachid Noujeim, CEO, Sodexo Middle East, answered our Q&A on the project, its objectives, and anticipated outcomes. 

1- How does the WWxLP work? Who is it for? 

The WWxLP is part of Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow 2025 initiative that outlines nine commitments covering Sodexo’s positive impact on individuals, communities and the environment. This includes two major waste objectives: eliminating waste that ends up in landfills and a 50% reduction in food waste across all operational sites.

WasteWatch supports small, medium, and high-volume kitchens to efficiently measure food wastage and also tracks post-consumer waste; educating businesses on the impact they can have by reducing wastage.   

WWxLP consists of a three-step process. During the first step, WWxLP tracks daily pre-consumer and post-consumer food wastage through AI-driven algorithms and gathers data on food waste, highlighting the wastage areas. In the second step, the next-gen platform monitors smart data through an online reporting dashboard and shares reports and alerts via email to users. This smart data is then used to set waste reduction goals that will enhance the organizations’ food waste reduction objectives. The final step is to act on the data. 

Read: Restaurant patrons in UAE, Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait savoring the experience of in-dining again

Read: Grubtech and Foodics announce their partnership to empower restaurants and cloud kitchens

2- How does the platform generate money? 

Once deployed, WWxLP provides a clear ROI in almost all sites. Based on extensive deployment and testing, the program has proven, on average, to reduce food waste by 50% and food costs by 3%. In the food industry, food is a major component of your costs and can represent up to 30 to 35% of your total cost. For the catering industry, it is even much higher, and this cost-saving makes a big difference. 

On top of financial savings, we believe it is the right thing to do.  To create true value, large companies like ours must operate with the aim to create a positive impact on society.

4- Can you tell us a bit more about the environmental impact of WWxLP for users?  

In Q3 of 2019, Sodexo Middle East launched a pilot phase of WWxLP in the UAE, which recorded 11,072.82 kilograms of total food wastage across 5 sites over six months.

Deploying Wastewatch has numerous benefits as food waste impacts all of us at 3 levels. 

At a humanitarian level, about 8.9% of the world’s population, or 690 million people, go to bed on an empty stomach each night.  

At an environmental level, food wastage is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions which are 30% more powerful than carbon dioxide. This is because wasted food goes into a landfill and food cannot properly decompose because landfills are lined with geo-textiles and clay, which create a barrier between the waste and the earth around it. 

This comprehensive global program is designed to focus on food waste prevention (source reduction), which delivers positive environmental impacts, and operational efficiencies that cannot be otherwise achieved through composting and donation. In the end, prevention reduces food waste, energy use, water consumption, and greenhouse gases. 

5- Corporates have bigger worries on their hands post-covid-19, so why did Sodexo decide to launch the WWxLP now?

True, corporations have taken heavy financial blows as a result of the toll the COVID-19 pandemic took on the global economy, especially the food and catering sectors. 

The impact of the pandemic on the F&B sector showed that in the GCC, in the period leading up to the complete shutdown of restaurants in March 2020, businesses experienced an overall 60% decrease in dine-in customers. Following the closures, revenues went down to zero for many restaurants in Bahrain, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, which still remains the case in some places. 

The reality is that we launched WWxLP in the UAE as a pilot in 2019, before COVID-19, and the pandemic hasn’t changed our mission of tracking our food waste. With the introduction of WWxLP, the process is no longer manual but rather structured, data-driven, accurate, and efficient.

6- Can you share targeted figures for the platform?

Based on extensive deployment and testing, the program on average reduces food waste by 50% and food purchases by 3% across all operational Sodexo sites which have incorporated the platform into their business.

Pricing is tiered, based on on-site food spend, and, in most cases, the cost of the program is 30% or less than the savings achieved. Return on investment typically occurs within 1 year. 

Sodexo has already deployed Waste Watch in 21 countries across 823 sites and is targeting 263 sites by the end of August.