Doing it right at Iceland: How Olio is supporting sustainability goals and engaging store staff

Photography copyright: Phil Tragen 2022

A bit about Iceland and Olio

Iceland is the UK’s leading frozen food specialist.

Under the direction of Richard Walker (Executive Chairman, Iceland Foods), and his father, Malcolm Walker, the business has become a champion for sustainability, driving more ethical ways of operating in the retail industry. 

From reducing single-use plastics, to eliminating palm oil from their own-brand products, supporting charities or helping local communities – sustainability has been at the core of Iceland’s operating model since it was founded in 1970 and is a key part of its ‘Doing it Right’ ethos.

How we started working together

Before Iceland started working with Olio, they hadn’t sent any food to landfill for many years. Even so, further reducing food waste was still one area of sustainability that the team wanted to focus on.

With that in mind, Tessa, Olio’s CEO and co-founder, met with Richard and the Iceland team in 2021. She explained how sharing surplus food through Olio could help reduce Iceland’s environmental impact, at the same time as supporting local communities. Shortly after, we set up an initial pilot across three of Iceland’s stores.

The results were overwhelmingly positive, and in early July 2022, we began a phased rollout across Iceland’s 950 stores.

Photography copyright: Phil Tragen 2022

Why Olio works for Iceland

There were a couple of reasons that Olio worked well for Iceland right from the start. We sat down with Rebecca Reese, Retail Change Manager, who explained how she and the rest of the team found adopting Olio:

Q: What sold the team on signing up to Olio? 

We were looking at other potential avenues to use, but what it really boiled down to for us was what impact the solution was going to have on our store teams. We really didn’t want to give them additional work to do.

Luckily, the Olio model was great because we could see that it wasn’t going to put stores under any extra pressure. It was obvious from the pilot that the process was really simple and it’s something they could pick up very easily.

Q: How easy did you find rolling out Olio across your stores?

At the beginning, Olio volunteers used to call our stores to arrange collections themselves. After a while, we switched to Olio Collect, which is where store staff scan a QR code to let Olio volunteers know whether or not there’s food to collect that day.

It couldn’t have been easier to connect the Olio Collect software to our Iceland in-store devices – there was no development needed, it was as simple as just getting the app on there. Store staff generally made the transition from phone calls to the in-store devices without any hassle.

Once we’d made the switch, the food collection process worked much more efficiently.

Q: Aside from Olio’s operational simplicity, was there another element of Olio that you felt worked particularly well for Iceland?

It was clear to see that the majority of staff were really behind the programme from the get-go. 

Photography copyright: Phil Tragen 2022

Q: Could you tell me a bit more about how Olio positively affects the lives of your staff in Iceland stores? 

When we first started working together, I remember going to a few of Iceland’s Talking Shop meetings, which is where we hear from certain members of Iceland staff acting as the voice of their store.

I talked about Olio and Iceland’s sustainability agenda at some of those events. And the feedback I had was just amazing. 

It was obvious that with Olio, we were doing something that our store staff were already very engaged with. We had people saying “Wow – that’s great that we’re starting to work with Olio – I’ve been volunteering with them for ages! I’m really going to champion this in my store”. We had someone else saying “I look after the community kitchen for my area, and I really support reducing food waste”. 

Some colleagues have so much enthusiasm – if you could bottle it and share it with everyone, it’d be amazing.

Q: And how about for your Operations and Sustainability teams?  

The impact data we get from Olio is a huge help. It’s straightforward to understand, we know it’s accurate, and we can use it however we need to. 

We get that data on a weekly basis, which we can then cascade down to the right teams as soon as we receive it.

Chantel, our Sustainability Manager, also uses it as a proof point to demonstrate her department’s impact to the wider business.

That data has also helped with Olio adoption and compliance in stores, because we can show colleagues the impact they’re having through Olio, and make them more likely to get behind the programme.

Q: Did you face unexpected curveballs when implementing Olio? If so, how did our team help you overcome those challenges?

Any issues we’ve had, we’ve managed to work through quickly and easily with the Olio team.

The great thing about our relationship is that we’re able to deal with any issues as soon as they’ve arisen. Ella, Roberta and the team are very receptive to feedback, and we feel comfortable that any reported issues – on either side of the partnership – will be dealt with in good time. That’s made life really easy for us.

Q: How likely are you to recommend Olio to another business? 

10 out of 10! For any business considering working with Olio, I’d say absolutely do it. I think it’s such a good operation to have in store – and personally I really believe in it, too. 

Businesses should all be using something to get rid of their edible waste, and using it to feed their local communities. 

Our joint impact

1.5 million

meals saved

2.5 million

kgs of co2 emissions avoided


litres of water saved

Since we started working together, we’ve saved 1.4 million meals, avoided 2.5 million kgs of co2 emissions, and saved 438 million litres of water. That’s the same as 2,500 return flights from London to New York, and 7,000 swimming pools!

Plus, Iceland recently announced that they’d saved 3.5 million meals from going to waste – with 4 million in sight. 

Start working with Olio today

Get in touch with Olio today to see how simple it is to share your surplus food with people in your community.

Note: To find out more about Iceland’s Doing it Right strategy, click here. The impact figures in this case study represent Olio and Iceland’s joint impact from July 2022 up until March 2023.