Three Big Ideas, Three Amazing Finalists In WashU Olin’s 2024 BIG IdeaBounce Pitch Fest

Team Sustain-A-Plate

School Affiliation: WUSTL Olin

Description: We help grocery stores alleviate waste and increase profitability.

Problem:

Grocery shoppers do not often buy food close to its expiration date. From the lack of these sales, a single U.S. grocery store discards around 670,000 pounds of consumable food annually, resulting in losses of over $3,000,000. This act contributes 30% of the food waste in landfills and is the third-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally, highlighting a critical environmental and economic issue.

Solution:

Sustain-a-Plate helps grocery stores sell their close-to-expiration date food items through a dynamic dual pricing model. We build the pricing software that splits a product’s price by its expiration date. To do this, the product information is fed into a machine-learning model that calculates an optimal price according to the input factors and displays the dynamic price on Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL). The ESLs are attached to the POS system, via the cloud, and at checkout, the discount is automatically applied using a unique identifier built into the system. This sales method incentivizes shoppers to purchase these products, alleviates waste, and simultaneously increases store revenue.

Market:

Our market consists of the global food and grocery tech market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.9%. With Sustain-a-Plate, our estimated revenue will be $91,500/store. For our TAM, we looked at 118,000 food stores across the US, creating a $10.8B value using the $91,500 revenue value for each store. Next, for SAM, we segmented 10,000 national and regional stores for a value of $915M. Our SOM consists specifically of Midwest regional grocery stores, such as Schnucks and Dierbergs, with a value of $275M.

Competition:

Wasteless and Smartway are two of Sustain-a-Plate’s main competitors. Similarly, they both use AI pricing models for their electronic price tags. However, Smartway stops there, with no dual pricing system, many labor hours are required to change tags and discounts and it is based solely in France. Sustain-a-Plate and Wasteless take these tags even further by using a dual pricing system to differentiate products close to expiration.

However, our tags surpass Wasteless in quality because our system is Wi-Fi-based, making it infinitely easier and quicker to update screens and prices every day, therefore reducing labor costs, unlike Wasteless. Finally, Wasteless is entirely EU-based giving us the upper hand as we are based in the US and know much more about the market and landscape. As we have seen from these competitors, AI-powered electronic pricing is successful in Europe so it is time to bring it to the US for an entirely untapped market. Dynamic pricing has become a standard practice across nearly every industry, and we must introduce this innovative approach to pricing in the grocery sector, launching it into the 21st century where it should have been years ago.

Value Creation:

When looking at value creation, it is first important to consider how much value we anticipate being able to save each individual grocery store. We aim to create $1,100,000 in value for stores through a combination of labor and label printing cost savings and recouping revenue from previously wasted food items. Knowing that grocery stores operate on low margins and their priority is often sales over sustainability, we believe the $1,100,000 in additional revenue and cost savings makes partnering with us a profitable investment decision.

For Sustain-a-Plate, we are looking at generating $91,500 in revenue per store a year which includes a subscription and percentage of sales of previously wasted items. Our estimated COGS of $17,500 includes the cost of tags and setup costs of the tags for pilot program stores. However, a lot of stores are already switching to electronic price tags, so for those stores, our COGS will be much lower. With a COGS of $17,500, this gives us a profit margin of 81%.

The Team:

Franklin Taylor, MBA, May 2024; Tanvi Jammula, BA Computer Science & Finance, May 2026; Kelsey Kloezeman, BA Entrepreneurship, May 2024; Anna Larizza, BA Finance, December 2024; Jason Ti, MA Computer Science, June 2024

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