Case Study: Community Food Connection – a Perspective from Tesco

Wednesday 22nd February

By YFood

We’re an interactive platform passionate about driving innovation in the Food Industry using technology by connecting and supporting the most brilliant minds in the food industry.

In our series of collaboration case studies, we highlight how large companies and budding startups come together to focus on distinct issues that affect their community and co-create innovative solutions. Each case study illustrates how these companies are able to work together despite their differing company structures and priorities by pooling their knowledge, expertise, resources and passion to make the world a better place! Here we speak to RACHEL FINN, Head of Campaigns at Tesco about their key learnings and advice to other businesses looking to partner with other organisations.

The issue

Tesco set themselves the target that any food that’s safe for human consumption will not go to waste from their UK retail operations by the end of 2017. Tesco wanted to make surplus food from their stores available to charities and community groups in need. This surplus food becomes available late at night, sometimes making it difficult for representatives from those charities or groups to collect. With the thousands of stores open seven days a week that Tesco has, they also needed to find several thousand charities to meet the supply of surplus.

The solution

Tesco collaborated with FoodCloud, a tech platform that helps redistribute surplus food, and FareShare, a platform that connects charities and community groups with good food destined for waste. The three organisations collaborated on Community Food Connection, a project that had them work closely together to develop a process that would work well for both Tesco’s stores and the charities they were connecting with. FareShare developed a network of charities and FoodCloud linked them to Tesco’s stores so that surplus food could be redistributed within communities.

Key Achievements and Milestones


The collaboration

FoodCloud had been working with Tesco Ireland since December 2013 and had clocked up a bank of knowledge about how to approach store surplus redistribution in a sustainable way. FoodCloud’s app allows Tesco store workers to message charities to alert them that food is available to collect that day. FoodCloud worked with the Tesco technology team to integrate this with Tesco’s stock control and reporting systems while Tesco developed the store processes, training materials and reporting for the programme.

Once Tesco UK received the go-ahead for the original FareShare and FoodCloud proposal in February 2015, they set up a cross-functional project team to work through the proof-of-concept trial phase. FoodCloud also developed a network of charities and linked them to Tesco’s stores so that good food could be rescued within communities.

FareShare proved to be the perfect partner in the UK – so the end result was a partnership between three organisations. When looking at solving store surplus for Tesco in the UK, FareShare handled a crucial, but labour-intensive part of the programme – finding thousands of charities to match to Tesco’s stores. FareShare built up a new team of regional managers, people on the ground across the UK who meet charities and stores and match them together.

Tesco took a very stepwise approach to getting this up and running. They started with a single pilot store in London in May 2015. They spent a lot of time as a project team at the store talking things through with the store team, listening to their thoughts and checking in on progress. It was very hands on.

Tesco’s biggest learnings

It’s hard to give food away for free well. Along with FareShare and FoodCloud, Tesco made a significant investment to overcome the operational barriers and put a scheme in place with service and longevity in mind. Success comes from embedding donations into the store’s day-to-day operations and by investing in the training and management needed to make it work well every day.

Pilot well! Implementing a pilot phase when testing the collaboration was also incredibly important. The pilot phase not only helped Tesco validate their overall approach but also prompted them to redouble their efforts on several fronts: training, engagement, reporting and the store support structure needed through the rollout.  More than that, it was about listening to the people they were working with and reacting to what they were seeing happening.

The importance of collaboration between emerging startups and large businesses

Some of the most innovative companies are startups, as seen throughout Tesco’s partnership with FoodCloud. Providing the right support can help these companies develop their products, which in turn allows Tesco to focus on the things that matter most to their customers and wider society.

It can be daunting for small businesses to work with large companies, so Tesco introduced a dedicated team to help new suppliers during their first six months working with Tesco. Using Tesco’s knowledge and expertise in those crucial first months, they aim to build trusted and sustainable partnerships with these businesses.

The remarkable success of Tesco’s partnership with FoodCloud, which has seen the national rollout of FoodCloud’s technology across Tesco stores from relatively small beginnings with Tesco Ireland, exemplifies how collaboration can benefit suppliers, retailers and, most importantly, customers.

Tesco’s advice to large businesses looking to work with startups

Spend time agreeing with the startup on what success looks like. For this collaboration, Tesco wanted to design a scheme that looked after charities brilliantly, so they measured stores on service. The food waste reduction followed naturally from that.

Don’t be over reliant on technology. Make sure the technology supports the need, but doesn’t replace the human interaction. FoodCloud often talk about ‘technology with a heart’ which sums it up perfectly.

Be ready for problems and embrace small failures. It might not work brilliantly the first time, issues will crop up – be ready for that, and enjoy it. Projects like this will test the resilience of the whole team. Find ways to stay positive and share the successes and don’t ever lose sight of what’s working and the progress that you’ve made. But do of course listen to the issues.

Tesco’s advice to startups looking to work with large businesses

Look for strong strategic alignment in your target partners. Food waste reduction is a huge focus for Tesco and their CEO, Dave Lewis. For Tesco, good partners offer them something they cannot do alone. If you’re a startup, make sure you offer something to the partner that they genuinely can’t do without you and that they can’t easily get elsewhere.

Be really clear on the environment you’re looking for the technology or initiative to work in. For example, Tesco has had a number of organisations pitch ideas that while technically possible, would genuinely struggle in a busy retail environment. Spend time in a store to understand where roadblocks may happenand develop a more fruitful proposal.

Be ready for a slow start but sharp acceleration. Large organisations can have long governance and approval processes and budgets are typically fixed months ahead. Getting the go-ahead can take time. However, once things get the green light, things can move extremely quickly. Make sure you’re ready to match the speed at your end.

Rachel Finn, Head of Campaigns at Tesco and Iseult Ward, CEO & co-founder of FoodCloud both presented their collaboration during our Meeting of Minds session on our Sustainability Day of Food Tech Week London 2016. This case study was prepared with help from Iseult Ward and Lindsey Crompton, Head of Community at Tesco.

Learn more about Community Food Connection:

Learn more about FoodCloud:

Learn more about FareShare:

Piping hot Food Tech news, delivered to your inbox!

Subscribe to our mailing list for all the latest news from the Food Tech space. Never miss out on updates on our monthly Food Tech Wednesdays meetups and our next Food Tech Week.