Yume

Katy Barfield • Windsor

Before embarking on her mission to end commercial food waste, Katy Barfield said she was ‘asleep at the wheel’, not comprehending just how big of an issue it really was.

 

The equivalent of 400 semi-trailers of food goes to waste every day in Australia in the commercial and industrial food space alone – that’s 42% of Australia’s food waste being discarded at farms, food manufacturers and wholesalers.

As a business owner in the hospitality industry, she came to see how much food went to waste each day and realised this was a problem that needed to be solved.

‘We need to step up.’

Recognising the role technology could play, Katy came up with an answer that would not only benefit the planet but also directly benefit Australian food businesses. That answer was Yume – an online marketplace that would allow those in the commercial food space to sell, donate and buy surplus food at a significant discount and prevent wastage.

Making strides and making a difference

Founded in 2016, Yume made significant advances in its early years, notably winning the Premier’s Sustainability Award in 2018. But even Katy couldn’t have foreseen how important Yume would become to some organisations in the last few years.

The food supply issues of 2020 and COVID-19 lockdowns were hard on hospitality businesses. But the Yume marketplace meant that many businesses were able to source the stock they needed from those looking to offload supplies at short notice.

The flow-on benefits of sustainable business practices

The shared benefits of Yume Food speak to both the importance and viability of sustainable practices in Australian businesses.

‘From the viewpoint of Australian industry, we’ve returned over $5 million to Australian farmers and Australian manufacturers – product that might otherwise go to waste, so it’s a win for the environment. We’ve got a win for the buyers because they’re able to buy product at a reduced rate, and it’s a win for the supplier because they are able to see a return for product that they would normally have to pay to bury.’

‘It’s a no-brainer.’

Yet Yume is one of only 3 companies in the world using technology to offer an innovative market for surplus food.

People want to make a difference

Consumer interest in sustainable business practices is higher than ever, and Katy has seen this firsthand.

Sustainability in small business is vitally important – but even more important is that they promote these practices to consumers. ‘If you are doing something in the sustainability space, it’s such a critical thing that you advertise that.’

Given the choice between 2 comparable businesses with one of those businesses doing something sustainable, ‘I know where I’d walk into,’ she says.

‘Life is super busy and there’s so many things going on,’ she says. ‘Make it easy for people to feel that they’re making a difference.’

‘Our mission is your benefit’

As a social enterprise with a clear goal, it’s important to Katy that Yume stays true to its mission.

‘Mission creep is one of the single biggest killers of social enterprise and for-purpose businesses.’

‘I understand why it’s such a challenge. When you’re on your knees financially – which there will, guaranteed, be a time – and you suddenly get an opportunity to maybe make some money but it’s not really in line with your mission, saying no to that is really hard. But it’s so important because that’s where your credibility and your point of difference comes from.’

Yume is now a well-established business with a loyal and expanding customer base that includes partnerships with some of Australia’s largest food producers and suppliers such as Unilever, Mars Food and General Mills.

‘The single most important piece of advice I could give anyone is to surround yourself with people that share your passion. Because it’s when those dark moments happen that you need to have people that can dig deep and that believe in that mission, and that’s what will carry you through those dark times.

‘And just don’t ever give up.’


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