Waste is one of the biggest perils of the fresh produce industry. Trying to find a home for excess stock and unwanted produce before it’s condemned to the landfill is one of the sector’s primary headaches.
Takestock.com is a digital market for the food industry focused on surplus inventory, ingredients and WIP (work in progress) inventory for private label manufacturers. Based in London, the online trading platform makes it easy for owners of stock to sell their unwanted items and to find a buyer efficiently rather than turning to scrap as an option.
Q. What are your aims?
A. Every year in the United Kingdom, more than 600,000 tons of food is sent to the landfills within the food manufacturing industry. This is worth around £1 billion. Farming and fresh produce adds another £4bn in lost value. While a lot of that does have value, it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. We provide a platform for this to be reduced.
Q. How does it work?
A. If a grower or trader has surplus product, he/she signs up on the system (which is free). Once registered, he/she can list an item (for free) — this is a simple process of uploading photos and information. The seller stipulates the minimum quantity he/she wishes to sell and declares the price per unit. The price is designated as ex-depot or transport-included (the site does provide some hauler options). The product is then live on the system for other users to see. We alert buyers who have expressed interest in an item previously.
Once an offer comes in, the seller is notified and has the option to decline, accept or counter bid. After an offer is accepted, the buyer pays into our escrow account at Barclays. Once goods are signed for, the buyer has 24 hours to raise a dispute. If we are not notified, it is presumed all is good, and we close the sale.
We charge the seller 15 percent of what he/she receives, plus VAT (value added tax). For the fresh produce category, we offer a subsidized rate of 8 percent commission. This reflects the lower margins and hopefully, repeat nature of the sector.
Q. How has it been received in the industry?
A. We have had more than 26,000 unique users and more than 1,000 active registered companies use us. We also work with some of the big supermarkets that see us as a partner to assist their suppliers. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), environmental consultancies, thought leaders and venture capitalists who target this sector have all taken interest in what we are doing. Broadly, there are three categories of buyer: independent manufacturer, caterer/restaurant and food trader.
Q. Why fresh produce?
A. Fresh produce is the most searched-for category on Takestock, and we know there is a strong market of buyers out there keen to trade directly with growers and distributors. The farming sector in the U.K. can often enjoy a strong harvest with high yields. That means a lot of surplus produce will end up in animal feed or landfill. Takestock helps farmers reach the marketplace direct, especially to food distributors, caterers, niche food manufacturers and the hospitality trade.
Q. So is it an eBay for the food industry?
A. Before eBay, selling the clutter from one’s garage was a challenge with a small number of local buyers at best. Now a national audience can be reached in seconds. We believe this is the same for the food industry, and the solution to distribute unwanted food stock is Takestock. We are not an auction site but more an offer-based brokering service.
Q. Have you worked alongside wholesale markets, individual growers, or both?
A. It started as a digital marketplace to move surplus stock, but it is becoming a new sales channel for people who want to market their product further afield.
Q. Who does it appeal most to in the fruit and veg sector?
A. Growers, wholesalers and market traders from a selling perspective; from a buying perspective, independent retailers and caterers. It’s about giving the farmers a chance to reach a bigger market and fresh produce traders to widen beyond physical footfall.
Q. How many users do you hope to have?
A. There are roughly 100,000 food outlets and companies in the U.K. and about 1 million across Europe. We would like them all to be on the site, naturally.
Q. What does the future hold for Takestock?
A. We want to become the B2B trading platform for the food industry end-to-end. We are U.K.-focused, but attracting international customers. The sheer size of the food waste problem means there is a great opportunity for an efficient marketplace to enable sellers and buyers to trade easily.
Campbell Murray is a seasoned tech sector executive with previous director level roles at Vodafone, Intuit & Bazaarvoice.strong>