Wal-Mart’s Walton Family Backs Startup Trying to Cut Food Waste

FoodMaven CEO Patrick Bultema says Americans waste $200 billion worth of food each year.

Members of the Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fortune, are backing a startup that thinks it can turn a profit by reducing food waste.

The business, called FoodMaven, has completed an $8.6 million Series A fundraising round that includes financing from the billionaire Walton clan. The family office is Walton Enterprises, which holds nearly half of Wal-Mart’s stock.

The Colorado-based startup, which went live in July 2016, is creating a marketplace to find buyers for food that has been rejected by retailers, for any number of reasons, but is still good to eat. An estimated $200 billion worth of food is wasted in the U.S. each year -- largely the result of a food system this is inflexible, according to Patrick Bultema, chief executive officer of the company.

“The industry has accepted waste as a cost of doing business” he said. “We’re making pathways that don’t exist in the food system.”

FoodMaven currently has about 700 customers in Colorado, including restaurants, hospitals and large institutional cafeterias. The company, which expects to do about $10 million in revenue this year, buys products at a discount -- say, a pallet of frozen pizzas with a mistake on the box, excess chicken that a supermarket chain doesn’t need, or heads of lettuce that got rejected for cosmetic reasons -- and then finds buyers for the food. If they can’t locate a buyer, the food is donated.

Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods, joined the board of the startup last year.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, has been working to reduce its food waste. The company is the largest seller of groceries in the U.S.

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