Airmart: Stopping food waste at the source

Californians throw out on average 6 million tons of food waste every year. That’s 214,285 shipping containers of food that couldn’t be eaten, going straight to landfills.

The major culprits are restaurants and grocery stores, which overestimate demand to avoid running out of stock.

What if we changed the way we buy food, so nothing goes to waste?

Enter Airmart, the a16z-backed Silicon Valley startup that is tackling food waste at the source. Small-time grocers, cooks, and bakers all across California use the e-commerce platform to take pre-orders for their produce, entrees, fresh-baked breads, and bespoke desserts.

Rowe, owner of Sweet Pipers on Airmart

This pre-ordering system ensures that the merchants never prepare more food than needed, effectively reducing food waste at the source. Taking pre-orders for a weekly delivery or pickup day also works well for those who bake or cook as a side hustle rather than a full-time job.

“There are many moms who want to make money on the side by selling homemade food. So they would announce on Airmart that they’re taking orders for frozen dumplings the following week. They start production while the kids are at school. Everything they make gets sold, no waste whatsoever. Imagine a world where this source makes up 10% of our food consumption. Imagine the impact on our supply chain and landfills.”

– Leo Liu, CEO of Airmart

If an order falls through, merchants like Giving Fruits donate leftover items to local food banks.

Normally, around 20% of all our food is wasted. So far, Airmart has saved an estimated $10M in food waste given the $50M their merchants have made in orders.

Airmart and the #BuyLocal Movement

Airmart first went viral in the Bay Area’s Chinese community, where home cooks often use the social media app WeChat to collect orders from local customers. The platform’s roster of vendors has grown 3000% in nearly every perishable goods category since the pandemic began.

The platform presents an alternative to the on-demand food delivery apps like DoorDash and UberEats; focusing instead on supporting the #BuyLocal and #SlowFood movements.

Talented, independent chefs and artisanal bakers don’t necessarily churn out the same items over and over again with the same speed, so the cookie-cutter fast food delivery apps just don’t work for them. The demand for fresh, locally sourced food is certainly there, providing a host of consumers who are eager to support these one-of-a-kind small food businesses.

Airmart’s huge success should be no surprise to anyone. People like knowing what’s on their plate comes from a family-run farm or a generational recipe book. Buying local food directly from the chefs, bakers, and farmers who produce it provides opportunities for community growth and connection. Airmart is simply bringing the local food shopping experience online so these well-kept secrets and foodie delights aren’t exclusive to farmer’s markets or private Facebook groups.

Join Airmart in reducing food waste by pre-ordering goods from the bakers, chefs, farmers and makers in your local neighborhoods.