How SA’s JustNow helps food businesses save money, decrease waste

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South African startup JustNow is using two apps to help large and small food businesses save money and decrease waste while increasing client engagement. 

Launched in 2016 and a participant in last year’s Startupbootcamp Africa accelerator programme in Cape Town, JustNow aims to reduce food waste through the use of a smart and powerful sales and marketing mobile application.

The startup has a Merchandiser App, which is connected on a real-time basis to a Consumer App. Shops use the Merchandiser App to create and manage offers throughout the day. Once an offer is activated, it is shown in the Consumer App with a discount code. The consumer can visit the shop that proposes an offer, which is based on a first in, first served basis.

The consumer takes the products directly from the shelves, and at the till the cashier scans the product’s barcodes and the discount codes shown in the app. This will trigger the discount.

Chief executive officer (CEO) Alexandre Vellieux told Disrupt Africa food waste costs South African retailers ZAR19 billion (US$1.6 billion) every year, which accounts for five per cent of their total revenue.

“In the meantime, their net profit margin is generally less than five per cent. So, we identified a big opportunity there,” he said.

“By putting offers on the products with sell by dates on the same day or the day after, it gives the possibility to the shop to sell these items at a discounted price that will convince consumers. Without the discount these items would often be disregarded by the same consumers for a later sell by date. That way, the shop manages to sell more of these items and it enables them to recover their cost of sales at least.”

The self-funded startup, which is currently in talks with potential investors, is currently live in seven Engen Woolworths stores in Johannesburg North. It will shortly begin piloting in Total Mugg & Bean stations this month, and also has future pilots with Spar and Woolworths planned.

“In one year, in the three shops we got data from, it reduced the food waste costs by 20 per cent already. With more consumers using the app, we believe we can reach 30 to 40 per cent food waste reduction – as we saw in one shop over two months last year,” Vellieux said.

“Consumers love our app. We get regular feedback asking when we’ll be acquiring new shops and when we’ll expand further into Cape Town. Retailers are more difficult because it is a new app and concept. But they see the results we bring and they are more and more inclined to enter into discussions with us now.”

JustNow is in the process of expanding to Cape Town, and is also about to launch in Romania with the second biggest food retailer in the world, Carrefour.

“We will pilot with Delhaize and Metro as well. Objectives are to roll out in the United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany and the Netherlands as well in 2018 and 2019, depending on the fundraising,” said Vellieux.

“We also have the introductions to a few retailers in the United States (US) thanks to our future investor who will give us the lead next year. We definitely have big expansion plans.”

JustNow charges a customised monthly subscription per store, and will charge a commission for online sales as it plans to offer prepayment and the option of booking a basket as part of its next version.

“We are also gathering significant data on customer behaviour. Combined with our AI stock management optimisations and Business Intelligence features, this will become another substantial source of revenue,” Vellieux said.

“Right now revenues are limited to four paying shops out of seven. We are planning on breaking even in December 2019.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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