If Greece deservedly wins a title, it is undoubtedly that of “champion” in food waste among European countries, as reflected in the relevant United Nations report (UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021).
The magnitude of the problem of food waste worldwide is considered so serious that it led the United Nations to include Food Waste as the 12th of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
As part of “Responsible Consumption and Production”, the goal (Target 12.3 and Indicator 12.3.1) is to “halve global food waste per capita at the retail and consumer level”, but also to “reduce food waste along the production and supply chains by 2030”.
In this context, we host today in our interviews Mr. Christos Kokkoros, CEO and one of the founders of Bring it Back, the first company to use technology to combat food waste in Greece.
Describe your objectives.
Bring It Back creates a sustainable Win-Win-Win relationship, connecting food outlets (bakeries, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, etc.) with environmentally conscious consumers. The third winner is, of course, the environment, as both businesses and consumers contribute to the fight against food waste.
This Win-Win-Win relationship can be achieved when:
– Businesses increase their revenue by selling surplus food that would otherwise not be consumed. In this way, they save some or all of the cost of buying/producing food.
– Consumers buy good quality fresh food at a reduced price, saving money and raising awareness of the huge problem of wasted resources.
– Food waste can be avoided by contributing to a more sustainable planet. Less food waste means less food buried in landfills and therefore less greenhouse gas emissions. It also means utilization of man-hours and total costs for production.
Our company’s vision is a future where the words food and waste do not go together. Our mission is to spread the ecological awareness of food waste starting from Attica, then throughout Greece and later in the rest of Europe. Bring it Back wants to offer the opportunity for more affordable food prices, while maintaining the same quality standards.
Our challenge at the moment is to penetrate the market and make people trust us, as the project is new and innovative for the Greek market. However, the market is environmentally conscious, as demonstrated in a survey we conducted before we launched this new venture.
How was the idea born and why did you specifically choose Greece, when you could have initially focused on countries with a better business climate?
The idea was born towards the end of 2018 shortly after I moved from Sparta to Berlin, I saw various projects of a similar nature thriving in Germany and Northern Europe in general. Then I thought “why not” in Greece, “why not” in Southern Europe. The countries of the South have always carried the label of wastefulness in various areas, but now the circumstances have changed and we are more ready than ever to respond positively to such innovative ideas. What was missing, however, was the expertise and the creation of a strong team.
In 2020 I started a postgraduate program where I met my current colleagues. Indeed this team was set up by partners in Greece – Georgia Vourtsa -, Brazil – Nizar Kadi – and Iraq – Shahla Bani.
Greece is a champion in food waste. Apparently, Education is not giving us the basis so far to reduce this huge waste? Do you think entrepreneurship is “key”?
It is true, as I said before, that it is not an easy process to change habits from one day to the next. Greeks love food in terms of quality and quantity.
What needs to be controlled is the waste of goods, as its effects have a negative impact on our daily lives. The philosophy of Bring It Back can be summed up in a simple sentence, as philosophical as that sounds: Be a force for good.
With responsibility and perseverance, we will succeed. We are also opening up an entire industry as we are the first anti-food waste company in the country. So entrepreneurship may ultimately be the key player in the fight against food waste.
Are you happy with the market conditions in Greece, or did you find something worse than what you initially expected?
It’s a question I like to avoid. It’s very easy to say negative things about the market conditions in Greece but going abroad and doing business here, I realized that in all cases you have to focus on the positive aspects of the market.
What obstacles and opportunities do you see at the moment in the Greek business scene?
In a new venture the only obstacle is the ignorance of such a solution. Bring It Back promotes the solution to the food waste problem… and I mean that one can ultimately become part of the solution to the problem simply by using their mobile phone! The opportunities are many, as we are the first app in the Balkans to explicitly address food waste with a business approach.
Based on your company’s current plan, where do you see Bring it Back a year from now?
I love this question and would love to be asked it every year, to motivate me to think about the future plans for this project. Our goal is for Bring It Back to be expanded throughout Greece by the end of 2023. Besides, the interest of businessmen from cities in the region is becoming more and more intense.