While there are a myriad of social, cultural, and even technological reasons for these staggering statistics, we’ve seen a slew of startups spring up with proposals to solve the problem of food waste. Last year, Choco achieved the coveted unicorn status for software that digitizes the ordering, supply chain and communication processes for suppliers and restaurants. Elsewhere, there are companies that offer AI-powered smart forecasting to help retailers optimize their inventory replenishment, while others have built marketplaces for selling surplus or imperfect products. There is even a company that wants to convert food scraps into food containers.
Another budding startup called Can plameanwhile focuses on reducing food waste in a very specific sector: canteens.
Founded in 2019 in Denmark, Kanpla initially focused on school canteens, offering software for parents to pre-order food for their children (children under 13 are not allowed to have debit cards in Denmark), giving schools a good idea of how much and what kind of food to prepare. Today, the company focuses on canteens of all kinds, with paying customers such as shipping giant Maersk and Danish brewer Carlsberg, as well as industrial canteen suppliers such as Coor and white horse serving more than 230 canteens in Scandinavia.
By 2022, Kanpla said its software was being used in some 1,500 canteens, and that number expects to triple this year as it expands into more European markets. In preparation for this growth, the company announced today that it has raised €2.2 million ($2.4 million) in an initial round of funding.
How it works
The Kanpla platform has two core elements. For kitchens, Kanpla offers a so-called “operating system” for managing their entire canteen from a PC or mobile device, including creating digital menus, supporting different types of payments, collecting and presenting sales data and more. This allows companies to understand which foods sell best, allowing them to stock up on the right types of ingredients, minimizing production that would otherwise go to waste.
On the restaurant side, users can access a mobile or web app to view menus and order food, meaning their food can be waiting for them when they arrive at the cafeteria.
In addition, the Kanpla platform has features specifically aimed at tackling food waste.
For example, it allows kitchens and canteens to sell excess food from their lunch or buffet menus to guests as takeaways. Through the admin dashboard, they simply list the amount of food available and the price, and a message is sent to each Kanpla diner’s app.
And Kanpla also has a food waste logging feature, currently in beta, that aggregates data such as the number of people entering a canteen and the amount of food wasted across different categories (e.g. in production or uneaten buffet meals). This requires kitchens to weigh the food before throwing it away.
Perhaps the most curious aspect of Kanpla’s offering is its narrow focus on canteens, something Kanpla CEO and co-founder Peter Bæch simply owed to his own experiences.
“The idea of targeting the canteen industry came from our experience in our local canteens,” Bæch explains to TechCrunch. “We saw with our own eyes a canteen that threw away huge amounts of food at the end of the day. We figured out how we spent half of our lunch break waiting in lines. These inconveniences led us to dive in and find an industry that was lagging heavily in digitization, with additional forecasting issues, limited tools to manage guest relationships, and a high level of manual work for printing and billing. These insights became the beginning of our journey to digitize this industry.”
While canteens no doubt share many of the pain points of other eateries, each has its own unique problems and opportunities that require a different approach from a technology standpoint.
“Canteens differentiate themselves from cafes and restaurants by having repeat guests, who come back day after day, giving them a unique potential to connect with their guests,” Bæch continued. “In addition, they have the added complexity and difficulty of changing menus and payments on a daily basis that often operate through hybrid approaches, including card, bill and payroll deductions.”
The Kanpla seed round was led by Netherlands-based VC HenQ, with the participation of a handful of angel investors. The company said it will use its new cash injection to expand beyond its native Denmark and into the UK, Norway and the Netherlands in 2023, with plans to expand its reach in the US and other European markets over the next year.
Denmark has spawned a number of major technology companies over the years, such as an expense management software provider pleo which reached a valuation of $4.7 billion a year ago, while local neobank Moon reached a valuation north of $2 billion last year. And then there is of course Zendesk which was bought by a private equity firm for $10 billion in June.
HenQ partner Jan Andriessen thinks Kanpla can blaze a similar trail to Zendesk by capitalizing on what initially appears to be a vertical niche.
“The canteen industry may seem obscure at first glance, but it is a large market with enormous potential,” Andriessen said in a statement. “Many B2B software products have flourished in seemingly non-obvious markets. Zendesk, one of Denmark’s largest technology companies, was founded long before customer success software became a fixed term. Kanpla can be the same, which makes them the type of B2B company we are happy to support.”