‘Dabao’ Buffet Food For S$10, Buy Cheap Surplus Grocery With Treatsure

Food waste is one of the biggest waste streams in Singapore and the amount of food waste generated has increased by around 20% over the past decade, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

In 2019, Singapore generated around 744 million kg of food waste, the equivalent of two bowls of rice per person per day, or around 51,000 double-decker buses.

Food waste is a real problem – it not only causes environmental problems, but also affects our food security and puts pressure on our resources.

When Preston Wong, 31, watched his family members one day remove excess food from the refrigerator, he wondered if a platform could be built to facilitate the redistribution of excess food.

He pitched the idea to his National University of Singapore (NUS) classmate Kenneth Ham, 30.

The duo didn’t even share the same classes – Preston majored in law and accounting, while Kenneth majored in computer science – but they had known each other from church.

During their final year at NUS, they decided to take the leap to develop an app to tackle food waste in Singapore by reducing the amount of buffet food thrown away at the end of the day.

“Treat food like treasure”

Called a treat, Preston described it as “Singapore’s premier food-saving app” with a mission to get consumers to “treat food like treasure.”

It helps businesses tackle food waste using technology solutions and offers consumers a new channel to discover unique, high-value foods while doing good to reduce waste, he added.

application of treats
candy app / image credit: candy bars

Although treatsure was released in 2016, the app didn’t hit the market until 2017.

As with most startups, we had resource constraints for capital and labor to develop the product, but we were able to bring together help from different sources to create our first version of the app.

– Preston Wong, co-founder of treatsure

They started with an initial capital of S $ 50,000, then raised undisclosed funding.

Sustainability was a rather “new” concept at the time, and it was difficult to get businesses and consumers to understand and embrace their solution.

They reached out to early stage partners like Grand Hyatt Singapore and AccorHotels, who were aligned with sustainability and supported their pilot tests.

When they got some traction, they convinced other hotels and restaurants to come aboard the platform.

Today, they have more than 20 partner hotels, including Fairmont Singapore, Swissotel the Stamford Singapore, Marriott Singapore Tang Plaza, Novotel Singapore, Mercure Hotels, Hotel Jen, Carlton City and Furama.

Buffet in a box

With their take-out buffet in a box, users can pack food from buffets at participating hotels or restaurants within the last 30 to 60 minutes of the buffet timeslot, starting at S $ 10 per box.

treat buffet in a grand hyatt box
Treatsure Takeaway Buffet in a Box / Image Credit: Grand Hyatt Singapore

The way it works is that users show up at the restaurant, scan a hotel’s QR code with the app, and make payment at the counter before receiving their treat box as an entry ticket to proceed with packaging.

Users can purchase more than one box, although some outlets have a limit of four boxes.

Preston also pointed out that the app doesn’t sell leftovers.

“The excess food that a user would pack and take away is the same as what a restaurant patron takes from the same buffet line before the buffet closes,” he explained.

candy buffet in a box
Preston Wong (far right) with treatsure users / Image Credit: treatsure

Last year, treatsure sold a total of up to 20 boxes per day.

However, since the breaker in April, self-serve buffets have been suspended by the government until further notice and most hotels are cautiously reopening with à la carte models of buffets.

“We are always following developments in this space closely and the model may evolve accordingly. Even with an a la carte model, there may still be some prep or ingredient wasted, but it will likely be much less than buffet service, ”said Preston.

In the meantime, we’ve worked with our hotel partner Grand Hyatt to provide takeout boxes and excess cheeseburgers instead.

Buy surplus, defective, or expiring food products

grocery delivery
Preston Wong (left) doing grocery delivery / Image Credit: treatsure

From reducing the wastage of buffet food, treatsure has since expanded its services to also offer delivery of surplus groceries.

Food waste is one of the biggest food waste problem affecting distributors and suppliers up the food supply chain.

We started to tackle this problem early in 2019 with a few grocery partners. They shared with us the issues of excess food stocks with limited shelf life or packaging defects, and limited channels to dispose of them.

– Preston Wong, co-founder of treatsure

Some of their early grocery partners include UglyFood, Atasco, Amoy Canning, Olive Groves, and most recently food importer and distributor Ban Choon.

However, Preston shared that they face a major challenge working with retailers in the first version of the app, especially in terms of convincing the biggest local restaurant chains and supermarkets to join them.

“They had their perspectives and practices in food surplus management and were not ready to accept a solution like ours.”

“This is when we discovered a greater extent of food surplus in the hospitality industry and our platform focused on this problem instead with a winning model endorsed by hotels from foreground, ”he added.

Handles surplus groceries / Image Credit: @cocothekoala via Instagram

Now that they’ve recruited various suppliers and distributors, treatsure delivers excess, stained, or expired items – such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, snacks, and drinks – right to your doorstep.

Currently, only the delivery option is available as the self-pickup service in the Central Business District is still suspended at this time.

Unlike their buffet in a box, COVID-19 has propelled demand for its surplus grocery service as more and more choose to stay home and order groceries online.

According to Preston, the breaker months have given their business a particularly strong boost.

“At one point, we saw our customer orders grow three to four times the volume of the pre-breaker,” he added.

Towards a zero waste lifestyle

Kenneth Ham and Preston Wong treat co-founders
Kenneth Ham (left) and Preston Wong (right), co-founders of Treatsure / Image Credit: treatsure

To date, treatsure has seen over 20,000 users in its food savings community and an over 300% increase in its user base year over year.

While the growth is good, they faced a challenge in terms of technology as their user base is continually growing and when they first introduced a new grocery segment in the app.

We had limited resources to execute the necessary changes and improvements for the issues we had heard from users. We reached out to our users and offered them the best customer service engagement we could offer, while letting them know that we were doing our best to find resources for improvement.

Fortunately, the National Environment Agency supported us with a five-figure grant Towards Zero Waste to revamp our app and many users have never given up on us. Today what you see is a brand new, more user-friendly app.

– Preston Wong, co-founder of treatsure

Going forward, the team is looking to further improve its application and build on new technologies and innovations for food sustainability.

Currently, they are working to integrate more grocery stores and suppliers so that they can offer a wider range of surplus food products, as well as lifestyle partners with sustainable products that could have been reused from the surpluses. food and other surpluses.

Some of these partners include The Sustainability Project, Bamboo Straw Girl, and UnPackt.

Concluding the interview, Preston said he sees business as a force for good.

“Businesses need to create purpose and have an impact on our society and the world.”

“We need to remember why we started what we started, but we also need to be nimble to explore new, creative ways to achieve our why.”

Featured Image Credit: Processing via Facebook / Processing via Medium

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Jothi Venkat

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