Lead Forensics


‘Wonky Is Beautiful’ – The UK’s Most Ambitious Business Leader of 2021 features in The Times

16 Mar 2022

In yesterday’s issue of The Times (Tuesday 15th March 2022), Emilie Vanpoperinghe, Co-founder and CEO of Oddbox, explains how a trip to a Portuguese market led her to start a fruit and veg delivery service that also tackles systemic food waste and the greenhouse gases it generates.

On holiday in Portugal a few years ago, I was amazed by the tomatoes at a market. They were ugly, but delicious, and they inspired me to find out more about the produce supply chain. The choice we get in UK supermarkets is terrific, with all sorts of produce available all year round, so why could I get stunningly tasty tomatoes in Portugal, but not in the UK? And why did all our produce look so uniform?

That’s when I discovered the extent of waste in the food industry.

According to the WWF, 40 per cent of the world’s food goes to waste. That’s 2.5 billion tonnes of food every year. I’ve visited a carrot pack house and seen organic carrots going into a huge bin, just because they had small cuts or were slightly short. At one apple grower, I saw an entire crop destined to be rejected because of skin damage from a hail storm.

Many people don’t realise the connection between this systemic waste – of food that’s “too big” or “too wonky”– and climate change. When food goes uneaten, all the water and energy that went into producing it is wasted too. Food waste is responsible for 8-10 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest contributor to these emissions, behind the US and China.

The good news is, it’s an issue everybody can play a part in solving.

I founded Oddbox in 2016. We deliver veg boxes direct to customers, rescuing curvy cucumbers and other “unsuitable” produce straight from the farm. People know they won’t receive the same thing every week, as we work closely with our suppliers and take the produce that is at risk of going to waste.

The food waste problem has a number of root causes. First, consumers want everything all the time. Then there’s the trend towards packaging. It’s easier to fill a 1kg bag with five 200g apples than to fill it with apples of different sizes. People also shop with their eyes, so it’s on us to be more open to produce that’s imperfect-looking, as well as seasonal. We need to become more flexible in what we buy and how we cook.

I would like to see retailers broaden their specifications for produce they deem acceptable, and take a bigger proportion of the crops, too. And government and industry need to push for mandatory food-waste reporting, from the growers to the shops, as there’s still a huge lack of data.

Since launching Oddbox, we’ve delivered over four million boxes across the UK and our community has rescued nearly 25,000 tonnes of produce. We’ve also used our platform to share what we’ve learned. Only 30 per cent of the UK population realises that food waste has such a huge impact on climate change. Within the Oddbox community, that figure is 75 per cent.

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Being profiled in The LDC Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders has helped give the issue even greater visibility. When award programmes like this recognise that having a mission is good for the bottom line, it proves consumers and businesses have the power to create change.”
Emilie Vanpoperinghe
Founder, Oddbox

Emilie’s drive to tackle food waste helped her to become LDC’s Most Ambitious Business Leader in 2021. Could you be next?

For the chance to feature as one of this year’s Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders, find out more here. 

The Most Ambitious Business Leader

In 2021, Emilie Vanpoperinghe, founder of Oddbox, was named The Most Ambitious Business Leader. The judges commended Emilie for not only growing a business that is creating jobs and generating economic value, but for rapidly building a brand that is committed to tackling food waste – one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Who will it be in 2022?

Hear how Emilie felt being part of The Top 50.

Watch the video