The "Food Waste to Good Taste" Project: Updates From the Second Month
The second month of our “Food Waste to Good Taste” project was as full of exciting events as the previous one. We have successfully held our Food Waste and Business Innovation Seminar, two workshops for the team members of the Student Innovation Program, as well as a workshop for industry specialists and more food audits within the scope of the project.
Programme Seminars Series
On 31 March we concluded our final seminar under the Innovation Program Seminars Series. A panel discussion between three outstanding food upcycling practitioners covered the topic of effective leftover food management and turning it into valuable marketable products. Our honourable panellists – Carla Martinesi (CEO and Co-founder of CHOMP), Pirry Leung (Founder of FurryGreen Pet Food), and Anushka Purohit (CEO and Co-founder of Breer) – gathered to share their career journeys and uncover tips on how they turned their dreams into reality. Moderated by Anita Cheng, Executive Committee at the Hong Kong Chefs Association, the discussion turned out to be “inspiring, enjoyable, and with great ideas” as put by the audience.
As mentioned by Anushka Purohit, people in Hong Kong value fresh food due to their privileged lifestyles. However, companies produce more food than they can sell. As a university student, she participated in a social innovation competition, similar to the one by our Food Waste to Good Taste project, where she tested the idea of turning surplus bread into beer. This served as one of the initial steps in Breer's development, which became the successful business it is today. An innovative entrepreneur, Anushka shared her thoughts on the power of pitching, the importance of tangible proof and sampling alongside building their company. Breer’s sustainably brewed beer comes in a wide range of flavours, such as pineapple bun and pink hibiscus; the coffee flavour is made with coffee grounds “saved from dumps”. Anushka also mentioned their collaboration with Chicken Soup Foundation and Maxim’s Group to fundraise to support local startups.
Likewise, Carla Martinesi mentioned the reverse culture shock she had in Hong Kong after returning from “green” Switzerland, where food waste reduction and giving things a second life became her second nature. She created the CHOMP app to enable its users to “rescue” leftover food from stores and restaurants and enjoy at least a 25% price reduction on surplus food from 135 outlets around Hong Kong that use the app as a marketplace. Currently, she is working on a partnership with Maxim’s Group to link the CHOMP app with their loyalty system, converting the uploaded receipts from CHOMP into dollars and coupons at Maxim’s.
Just like Carla Martinesi, Pirry Leung started his business FurryGreen during the pandemic. Its main focus is gently processed pet food. He described the challenges his business managed to overcome, and emphasised the importance of behavioural change and helping animal shelters.
At the end of the discussion, the panellists gave their opinions on the importance of profit-making business models, marketing, product quality, transparency, and the power of habit, and talked about their plans to scale their impacts in Hong Kong and beyond.
You can re-watch all our Programme Seminars on our website and on our YouTube channel!
Student Innovation Program
The student teams, having received a dose of inspiration from the Innovation Program Seminars Series, were able to make significant progress in identifying and developing novel solutions to the food waste problem. In April, they were invited to the HKU School of Biological Sciences’ food laboratory to test their prototypes. The students were given the chance to experiment with various food waste, such as leftover cooked rice, vegetable peels, and seafood remains, using them as input materials. We look forward to seeing what the teams will come up with next.
To equip our student innovators with more industry knowledge, The Ritz-Carlton's and W Hotel opened the doors to their kitchens for the guided tours and workshops on 10 and 24 April respectively. Executive Chefs Mr. Daniel Guevara Quintero and Mr. Kael Lim led the workshop at The Ritz-Carlton, while Executive Sou Chef Mr. Jeffery Siew guided the participants through the kitchen world of W Hotel.
The students were able to gain an inside look into the life of a professional chef, as well as the various aspects of the menu development process. They also talked about the most common sources of food remains coming from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea. The chefs discussed the current practices when it comes to handling food residues, and expressed their concerns about letting external parties collect them.
Check out what our student teams have come up with at our Innovation Day, this June 16th at HKU. Sign up now to learn more!
Meanwhile, our fellow F&B industry practitioners similarly enhanced their knowledge. On 13 April, we held our first workshop at The Grill at the Mandarin Oriental. The goal of this workshop was to educate the chefs, restaurant managers, and staff members about the importance of food waste and how it can be made more sustainable at a local level, taking into account the cultural context.
We have partnered with The Nature Conservancy of Hong Kong (TNC) and Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong to learn more about our local marine habitats and how oysters support marine ecosystems. Through this workshop, TNC has presented solutions that help the restaurant industry effectively manage its seafood waste streams, and we also learnt more about the organisation's Oyster Restoration Project.
Alex Ho, the Chief Steward of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, discussed his experience working with TNC and the challenges that he faced in the restaurant industry when it came to food waste management.
Anniqa Law, the Conservation Project Manager of TNC, also talked about the importance of the Oyster Restoration Project and how F&B leaders can assist in preserving this valuable natural resource while maintaining their operations.
Food Waste Audits
Last but not least, across April we conducted seven food waste audits with our F&B partners from across Hong Kong. It was encouraging to see just how hard the industry is working to tackle such a challenging issue. Our partner restaurants are taking fundamental approaches to minimise food waste in a variety of ways, recognising that it is not only beneficial to them on an environmental and social level but can also help to reduce their costs. Areas for improvement are increasing awareness of closing the loops: reusing and recycling. However, this is the most challenging as most establishments do not have the capacity to partake in these practices.
About the Project
The “Food Waste to Good Taste” project, co-organised with the School of Biological Sciences of The University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Chefs Association, aims to galvanise us to rethink how we manage and reuse food waste in the city's hospitality industry. The objective of the project is to facilitate dialogue between students, industry, and academia.
The project has received positive feedback from the industry. Some of the prominent partners that have joined us so far include JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, The Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental, as well as W Hong Kong, Pizza Express, Locofama, and TREEHOUSE!
The goal of the project is to provide comprehensive education and training on food waste reduction. It features various components such as Student Innovation Program, seminars, Food Waste Workshops, and Food Waste Audits.
The project is funded by the HKU Knowledge Exchange.