Andrew Shakman, co-founder and CEO of Portland, Ore.-based foodservice technology company LeanPath Inc., is a passionate food waste prevention advocate who strives to help foodservice operators prevent and minimize food waste.
Shakman is a member of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve Sustainability Advisory Council, a strategic advisor for the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, and he was the 2013 recipient of the NACUFS Daryl Van Hook Award.
Throughout his career, he has lead LeanPath Inc. in the creation of one of the first automated and patented food waste metering system to enable real-time, daily monitoring of food waste. He also co-invented US Patent #7,415,375, “Systems & Methods for Food Waste Monitoring.”
Shakman is speaking about strategies to reduce food waste and lower food costs at WasteExpo this June as part of the Food Recovery Forum, and Waste360 recently sat down with him to discuss his role at LeanPath and the company's efforts to prevent food waste.
Waste360: Can you give a little bit of background on LeanPath Inc. and your role with the company?
Andrew Shakman: I am the co-founder and CEO of LeanPath Inc., which started in 2004. Over the past 12 years, we have been singularly focused on the prevention of wasted food, and my role in that process has evolved over time.
Functionally, I bring a bunch of things together, such as products, sales and client services. At a values level, my role has been very much about trying to help the foodservice industry recognize the importance of wasted food as an issue. For many years, it was not a central concern and the attention it’s getting now is what is needed to drive change.
I think the other part is going beyond the issue, identifying it and talking about the strategic ways to address it knowing that there’s a lot of attraction to things that are tangible. Source production pays a really critical role in any waste management hierarchy and explaining the value of source production and food waste minimization is a key concept.
I view myself as an advocate, an educator and someone who tries to create frameworks that other people can understand, plug into and use to navigate their waste.
In terms of business, we focus on food waste prevention through the lens of measurement. We believe to our core that measurement is a method of driving change and when you measure things, they change. People learn new things, put that knowledge to work and make amendments on how they produce, what they purchase or how they behave. The very act of measurement also changes how people think and how they work. Knowing that something is important enough to measure means it’s important enough to think about doing it differently. We know that those two interventions—psychology and analytics—are what drive significant reductions in food waste, particularly in foodservice operations.
The problem was that measurement wasn’t easy, and we have tried to bring technology to the mix to make the measurement process simple and easy. We have developed scales, cameras and touchscreen terminals to do just that. We have a number of different form factors, such as a bench scale with cameras that allows you to get a really good photo of every item. This scale is really great for measuring pre-consumer food waste.
We also have a scale that sits underneath a bin and registers the difference every time you throw something in the bin, which is good for measuring post-consumer waste. In addition to those, we have a large floor scale that works for measuring both pre- and post-consumer food waste and organics. We also have a tablet-based approach that is primarily used for pre-consumer waste. We abstracted the software from our core bench scale product to create a lightweight, mobile tablet version.
With the tablet, people can use the scale they already own or they can enter data by quantity. Over time, we have built a range of capabilities to make measurement easy. Once people have the data, they can use our online reporting platform, which brings everything together in real time, sends alerts if any business rules are breached and send weekly updates. This is the core of what we do, and we find that when people get going on this journey that they typically cut their pre-consumer waste in half. That’s a big deal!
Waste360: What are the different resources that the company provides for people both in the industry and outside the industry?
Andrew Shakman: From a resource point of view, the number one thing we are doing beyond our products is working on education. We’re always publishing stuff that we think will be helpful to people. Last year we put out a guide called “20 Waste-Cutting Tips Every Foodservice Chef Should Know”, and at the end of last year we did a 2016 trends forecast for food waste.
At the beginning of this year, we did a strategic planning webinar and offered a toolkit to help people build their food waste strategy for the year. We do webinars almost every month, and we also publish a monthly newsletter with useful information about wasted food. We also started to go to events like WasteExpo where this conversation is happening so we can try to be helpful. We do not attend events to talk about our products, we attend to talk about how we can approve.
We also have services like consulting, training and coaching because we know that there’s a gap between collecting data and putting that data to work.
Waste360: What are the company’s food waste goals for 2016?
Andrew Shakman: We’re primarily focused on making an impact on wasted food with our customers. We are also growing in a number of markets, and we are opening an office in Europe in the second quarter because we are already doing a lot of work over there. We have customers in 11 countries, and it was time for us to put our feet on the ground there in a more permanent way.
We are also doing a ton of product innovation. We are taking everything that we are currently doing and bringing it to the next level of analytic depth. We are looking at all of the different ways that we can make our products easier to use and more powerful. We will continue to be very active in the core foodservice markets, but I think you will see us doing more in both restaurants and grocery, which are adjacent markets where we have some experience and where we would like to do more.
Waste360: You are speaking at WasteExpo this year. What are you hoping to get out of that experience?
Andrew Shakman: I find it very interesting that I get to put one foot in the culinary world and one foot in the materials management world. They are different culturally. For example, when I am with a chef at a culinary event and bring up organics, chefs think about buying organic produce. When I bring up organics at a waste event, people think of something totally different. There is a translation that goes on between both industries, and I am really forward to continuing to learn because I learn something from every event that I attend. I look forward to hopefully bridging and serving as a translator between the two communities because the only way we can resolve wasted food is by working together on the issue.