Booker and Olio: Flexible surplus food redistribution for the UK’s largest wholesaler
A bit about Booker
Booker Group is the UKs leading food and drink wholesaler, supplying thousands of independent retailers, caterers and small businesses from all across the UK.
Booker brands include Booker Wholesale, Makro Wholesale, Booker Retail Partners, Booker Direct, Classic Drinks, Ritter Courivaud and Best Food Logistics.
How we started working together
Booker has always made sure that any short-dated food gets donated, rather than going to waste.
Before they partnered with Olio however, Booker branches found their own local charities to donate to themselves – rather than via a business-wide food waste redistribution model like Olio.
When Covid hit in 2020, the hospitality sector effectively had to shut down overnight – and restricted retail, too. At that point, Booker found themselves with enormous amounts of stock suddenly available for donation, and had to think on their feet in order to prevent it all from going to waste. So they picked up the phone and called Olio.
At the beginning, the team at Booker were sending excess stock to their city branches. Olio volunteers would then collect that food whenever necessary – often in big quantities – and share with members of their community via Olio’s app.
With hospitality opening and closing on a regular basis over 2020 and 2021, the flexibility of Olio’s volunteers and redistribution model was a huge help for Booker in stopping any of its food from going to waste.
How our partnership has developed since then
Booker is part of the Tesco group, so when Olio and FareShare started working together on Tesco surplus redistribution in 2019, the team at Booker could see just how well it was working.
They were interested in seeing how much more surplus they could redistribute with FareShare in the picture. With that in mind, we ran a trial in March 2021, after which Booker decided to bring in FareShare alongside Olio.
Why Olio works so well for Booker
We sat down with Cath Marston, Head of Sustainability at Booker Group, who explained a bit more on how Olio’s flexibility has transformed sharing surplus food across the Booker Group:
Q: How did Booker’s partnership with Olio come about?
“When hospitality closed overnight, we had all this stock still sitting there and we could not let it go to waste.
So the relationship started with Olio – we just both went, “right, how do we save this food?” and went from there.
When you look back on those fluctuations, Olio’s flexibility – and your volunteers – were just lifesaving for managing everything at that time.
And after all that thinking outside the box, when Covid calmed down, we started talking about how we could do this on a regular basis. We wanted an ongoing solution that would work across every single branch on a “business as usual” basis.”
Q: Is there anything in particular that you feel has surpassed your expectations since you started working with Olio?
“It’s been so different working with Olio compared to working with a waste contractor, for example. Booker, Olio, FareShare and its charities – we’ve all got that same shared goal of getting to zero food waste, and also feeding the vulnerable in our communities.
And we’ve got that in our hearts – it’s not like a normal business target. I think there’s a passion behind it because we are actually helping our communities. We’re all on that same side, finding a way to make it work.
We at Booker don’t say, “Oh, it’s got to be done this way”. Olio doesn’t say, “it’s got to be done this way”.
We collaborate together with that one goal to make it work.”
Q: What would you say to a business that was considering starting to work with Olio?
“Definitely work with Olio. Talk to them about any nuances in your business that you think would be a barrier, because they likely won’t be.
There isn’t really any reason for edible food to be disposed of – there’s absolutely no barriers that aren’t surmountable.
Look at what we went through with Covid. We had driver shortages, global supply issues, new restrictions, new rules every couple of weeks – but we all worked together and got around it. So I would be amazed if there’s anything that could stop Olio working for any business.”
Our joint impact
Since Olio and Booker started working together, Olio alone has helped Booker share the equivalent of 514,280 meals, avoided 931,554kg co2 emissions, and saved 161,350k litres of water.
Together with FareShare, we’ve now saved a massive 5 million meals from going to waste. We think that’s pretty amazing.
Half a million
kgs co2 emissions avoided
litres of water saved
Start working with Olio today
No matter what sort of business you are – get in touch with Olio today to see how simple it is to share your surplus food with people in your community.
Note: The figures in this case study represent Olio and Booker’s joint impact from August 2020 up until April 2023