At a time when inflation has grocery prices at an 43-year high, shoppers are trying to find ways to save a little at checkout, like turning to store brands, which can shave a little off brand name prices.
Some smart shoppers are even leafing through the meat section for markdowns on items that are about to go past their “best-by date” and that’s where a little-known app has found its niche and saving consumers upwards of 50% on produce, meat, and other perishable goods.
Flashfood is a mobile platform connecting surplus food from grocery stores directly to the consumer – one where users can purchase food at reduced prices directly through their phone and pick up that very same day.
The idea was spawned by the CEO and Founder Josh Domingues’s sister, a chef who tipped him off to the thousands of dollars of food the catering service she was working for was throwing into landfills.
The landfill issue was substantial enough as it was, but then Josh’s consumer-centric lightbulb went off. Living above a grocery store in Toronto, Josh asked himself what if he could buy food nearing its “best before date” at a discount from his phone and pick it up downstairs at the grocery store?
When he checked with grocery store employees, they, too, told him that it was industry practice to toss out most food items that were not sold and approaching their best before dates by up to two weeks. Ding!
Now, some six years later, Josh’s lightbulb is radiating brightly.
Where the gettin’ gets good
Since the beginning of the year, Flashfood has gained some impressive traction. Among their grocery partners in the U.S. and Canada, there are Stop & Shop, Giant Food of Maryland, Giant Eagle, Food Lion, Family Fare, VG’s, Meijer, and GIANT.
The company claims that to-date, it has saved shoppers more than $120 million on their grocery bills and helps consistent shoppers save an average of more than $540 per year – not to mention saving 50 million pounds of food diverted from landfills and 95 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) saved from the atmosphere.
While most of the items available on Flashfood are what you’d consider typical as far as perishable foods go, that’s a good thing – especially given that vegetable prices have risen 61.5% in the last year and are expected to grow between 15.5% and 18.5% more before 2022 signs out. Meat is expected to follow suit.
When ConsumerAffairs took the Flashfood app for a test drive, the results were impressive. At a Meijer in Jeffersonville Ind., in-store prepared spaghetti and meatballs are marked down from $7.99 to $3.99, ground beef from $4.99 to $2.49, and boxes of mixed vegetables and fruits (peppers, tomatoes, oranges, pears, etc.) were available for $5.00.
Meijer could have extra added appeal for consumers since it recently announced that it was planning to focus on fresh food.
At a Giant Eagle store in the Cleveland, Ohio area, ConsumerAffairs found turkey patties were half-off ($6.99 to $3.99), as were chicken kabobs, veal scallopini, and oatmeal raisin cookies.
If you had ordered any of those items, the last step is picking them up in the Flashfood zone which is typically near the store’s customer service desk. The company encourages customers to pick up their items the same day they placed their order to ensure maximum freshness and a smooth pick-up process.
It added that it does not freeze or reserve any items, and if the best before date of an item has passed, it will be discarded the following day. It’s a typical policy for grocery stores that they can't give out or sell items past their best before date, even if they are paid for.
But, keep in mind, timing is everything. Most of the items ConsumerAffairs found available had expiration dates of three days or less. That’s a great thing if you’re grilling out and need some veggies or you want to treat the office to a fruit tray or cupcakes, but if you’re looking for products with long shelf lives like pickles or rice, Flashfood probably isn't your answer.
Consumer-friendly return policies
Given its consumer-centric nature, Flashfood corporate says it’s flexible when it comes to most mistakes. The company will provide refunds for eligible orders within 14 days after a customer makes a purchase, but it has to draw the line on some things, basically because “perishable” means “perishable” and if someone misses a pickup or cancels an order, that’s on the customer.
However, it says it will consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis and asks that customers simply contact them online.
The Flashfood app is available on both Google Play and the Apple app store.