Olio launched a peer to peer food sharing service in the UK in 2016. Still in beta, Olio is new take on food sharing. It’s a lot like the Buy Nothing project which started in the U.S. in 2013 and has since spread to cities and countries around the world. These hyper local groups encourage folks to give away to their neighbors what they aren’t using. It’s an informal system but very popular. Buy Nothing groups focus more on non-food stuff, but I’ve given away food items as well. It’s a great way to avoid waste and make your neighbors happy.
On Olio, neighbors post food they want to give away, and people nearby can browse the offerings. Foods listed include a mix of household stuff (i.e. half a bag of rice flour, a tube of mayo, and almost full bag of celery seeds, a bottle of coke classic) and prepared food (Pret porridges, community cooking project meals using surplus food, a single serving of chicken with rice curry). Mostly it appears to be used by folks who have something in the pantry they won’t use. It’s also possible to list non-food items on Olio. And one can post “wanted” ads as well.
Olio also collects surplus food from business to post on the website. They will pick up from restaurants, offices, hotels, even photo shoots. Olio is currently pursuing this service as a revenue stream: “OLIO generates revenues by charging businesses for the service we provide via our Food Waste Heroes Programme to enable them to have zero edible food waste stores. We will continue to explore other avenues to generate revenues to ensure that we have a sustainable business model.”
I’m not sure how much money there is in helping businesses reduce food waste, so it will be interesting to see how Olio monetizes this service which is currently free to non-business users.
What intrigues me about Olio is the potential for use while traveling. You can set your location to wherever you are. So if you’re doing a home exchange you might pick up some good foods to cook with. And if you don’t have a kitchen you can look out for prepared food options. The community meal offerings in London look like they might be a fun place to meet people.
While Buy Nothing operates through Facebook groups, Olio has a nice web platform. Olio claims to now exist in 32 countries. I had to set my location to London to browse listings so I don’t think they’re in the U.S. yet. If they came to my city I’m not sure I’d get more value than I do from my local Buy Nothing group which is very active. But I’d certainly give it a shot.