If you follow kencko, you’ll know that one of the things that gets us out of bed in the morning is the scale of food waste and the urgent need to do something about it. In the US, around 50% of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption don’t ever get into anyone’s belly - this, at the same time as 9 in 10 Americans are falling short of the minimum five-a-day recommended intake. It’s no mystery: fruits and vegetables are fragile and perishable. Throughout the journey from farm to table, a substantial proportion gets spoiled and sent to landfill.
By freeze-drying produce soon after harvest, kencko presses ‘pause’ on perishability and gives produce a new lease of life. Freeze-dried produce is nutritionally similar to fresh, but around ten times lighter, unbruisable, and has a shelf-life of up to 18 months. In 2021, we freeze-dried 2210 tons of fresh produce, and helped our members divert around 660 tons from landfill (compared to buying fresh fruits and vegetables for smoothies).
With the introduction of kencko’s bowls, we’re helping consumers tackle an even bigger food waste challenge. More than half (54.4%) of all the food waste generated by Americans is made up of plant-based ingredients and dishes. On average, the US consumer wastes more than 184 lb of plant-based meals and ingredients every year, throwing away around 30% of what they purchase. By offering individually portioned, shelf-stable meals, each box of 12 kencko bowls helps a member to save around 3.5 lb of food waste. Already, in just two months since the launch of bowls, we’ve made sure that nearly 2.5 tons of plant-based foods ended up in lunches instead of landfill.
As a direct-to-consumer company, delivering kencko boxes to our members accounts for a major slice of our environmental impact. Since August of 2020, kencko has been carbon-offsetting emissions from shipping. In 2021, we took major steps to reduce the impact of our logistics operations by setting up a new distribution hub in the US. By shipping goods in bulk, by sea from our manufacturing facilities in Europe, then fulfilling orders overland to our members in the continental US, we have been able to drastically reduce our dependence on air freight. Such comparisons are extremely difficult to calculate accurately, but the indications are that our per-package emissions from shipping are down by at least 50% as a result of the restructure.
In March 2022, we began a partnership with a leading carbon-management consultancy, which will take us a big leap closer to our goal of being a carbon-neutral enterprise. It’s a three-step process to measure our environmental impacts, reduce them as much as possible, and finally offset the remainder. The project will start with our office, operations and people, before expanding to our logistics operations, and finally our entire supply chain. Our target is to become a carbon neutral company in 2023.
We’ve been using a compostable, plant-based film for our individual serving packets since July 2019. But that wasn’t enough for us, because it was only certified for industrial composting facilities - that means that we couldn’t guarantee our members could break it down in their home compost bins. So for more than two years, we have worked with our packaging material suppliers to develop a new, guaranteed home-compostable packaging film specially for kencko.
It was a big ask: our freeze-dried, additive-free products are extremely sensitive to moisture and we want them to reach our members in tip-top condition, and stay that way until their ‘best before’ date. But eventually, thanks to some very clever chemists and engineers, we got there! In the second quarter of 2022, we’ll be rolling out the new film across our entire product range. It’s produced from sustainable wood pulp harvested from responsibly managed plantations, and certified both EU and US backyard composting standards, which means it will break down to compost in 6 months or less. For comparison, a banana peel takes around 1 month to break down in ideal composting conditions, and up to 2 years if simply dropped on the ground.
At kencko, we’re guided by a strong sense of mission: to help more people get their five-a-day (the minimum recommended servings of fruits and vegetables for a longer, healthier life). We are keenly aware that the problem can’t simply be laid at the door of individuals. With an industrialized food system in which the least nutritious foods are also the most profitable, most businesses have no incentive to help people choose additive-free, nourishing, minimally processed options. And in a culture that glorifies busy-ness and burnout, it’s incredibly difficult to carve out the time and money necessary to buck that system. We’re coming to the rescue, with delicious, simple, minimum waste solutions that help consumers fill the fruit & vegetable gap in their diets and build healthier habits. Our products make getting your five-a-day as simple and convenient as opening a bag of potato chips. And with over half a pound of organic fruits and veggies in every $2.49 smoothie, and more than a pound of organic plant-based ingredients in the average $6.90 bowl, we’re offering serious value for money.Our next challenge is to reach and nourish more communities in need, beyond our members. Stay tuned for a suite of new initiatives in the second half of 2022 aimed at making fruits and vegetables more accessible to even more people, and giving back to the communities where we operate.
As our kencko workforce continues to grow, so does our popular Birthday Giving program. Each kencko-er gets to nominate a charity to receive a donation from kencko in their name, on their birthday. It’s always inspiring to hear the personal reasons behind our colleagues’ choices, whether it’s a donation to a cancer charity in memory of a loved one, or an animal shelter that once rescued a beloved pet, or a humanitarian organization that touches someone’s heart. We also organize regular volunteering and fundraising drives for urgent causes, most recently sending a large shipment of shelf-stable kencko products and other essential items donated by kencko-ers to help people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine.
Another cause we’re truly passionate about is combatting nutrition misinformation. Our community has been badly served by nutrition brands promising impossible results and perpetuating damaging stereotypes of what ‘healthy eating’ looks like. At kencko, we have a team of nutrition experts - all Registered Dietitians - who work to demystify nutritional science, help people rebalance their relationship with food, and build truly healthy habits that nourish and sustain them in the long term. We make a whole bunch of free resources available to anyone via our blog and Instagram account, in addition to the free nutrition coaching program we offer to all our members.
At the end of 2021, we celebrated our first full year as a Certified B Corporation®. We continue to do the work - across our people, operations, logistics, supply chain and sourcing - to maintain and improve our B-Corp Impact Score. For those unfamiliar with the program, it exists to identify and nurture those companies which are trying to build a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose. To date, there are more than 3,500 B Corporations in 70 countries around the world; B-Corp brands you may recognize include Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Danone North America. To become a Certified B Corporation®, a company has to meet stringent standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. There’s a rigorous reporting process covering all areas of operation from office waste to ethical supplier relationships, and our status is reviewed every three years.
Our next challenge is to establish a track-record by publicly reporting on key performance indicators across the spectrum of corporate responsibility. We aim to have a more formal quarterly reporting structure in place by the end of 2022.