I visit Approved Food, the UK’s biggest online retailer of clearance food & drink.
My Approved Food Adventure.
As a blogger, I sometimes get a bit cabin crazy. Not surprisingly, when I was invited to join my UK Money Blogging buddies on a ‘field’ trip to Sheffield to visit Approved Food, the largest online retailer of short-dated and residual stock food and drinks, I jumped at the chance.
Not only would I finally get to meet some of my blogging mates in person, I’d also have a chance to meet the owner of Approved Food, Dan Cluderay and his team, and join in the daily Approved Food Facebook live video!
About Approved Food.
Approved Food is the UK’s largest online retailer of short-dated and residual stock food and drinks. They offer customers over 2,000 products, including well-known brands and supermarket & department store products, all at huge discounts. A quick look at the Approved Food website shows they offer much more than food and drink, too. There are fantastic deals on household goods, health & beauty products, pet supplies and dietary & lifestyle items. Plus, they offer heavily discounted prices on seasonal goods.
‘Best before’ versus ‘use by’.
Every year in the UK over 7 million tonnes of food and drink is thrown away, a lot of which has past its ‘best before’ date, but would still be perfectly good to eat – Approved Food website.
In a previous Maflingo post, ‘10 tips to reduce food waste and save money‘, I recommended buying short-dated and beyond ‘best before’ date foods from companies like Approved Food as a great way to save money on grocery shopping. I also explained the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ date labels on products. ‘Use by’ dates refer to the safety of perishable goods such as meat, dairy, fish and chilled meals, so even if these products look and smell fine, you shouldn’t risk consuming them after their use by date. However, the ‘Best before’ date refers to food quality, not food safety. You can safely eat these foods after the best before date but you may notice a loss in taste or texture.
Approved Food specialises in short-dated stock and products beyond their best before dates. The company deals directly with wholesalers and has managed to secure contracts with big companies like Premier Foods to offer the lowest prices in the marketplace for this category of product. Approved Food claim to save customers up to 70% on their weekly grocery shop. In fact, their research shows regular customers are saving around £60 on their monthly shop compared to high street prices. That’s a massive saving of £700 per year, which more than covers the delivery costs*, which start at £5.99 for up to 25kg.
There are plenty of big brands on offer at Approved Food, too, including Cadbury, Kelloggs, Andrex and Cif. Plus, if you see a product on the website that’s been ‘de-identified’, the chances are it’s from one of the major supermarkets.
The Approved Food Story.
During our visit to Approved Food, we met the man behind the company, Dan Cluderay. He knows his business inside out and as well as giving us a guided tour of the warehouse, he told us more about the company’s history.
I couldn’t help but feel inspired as Dan shared the story of how he and his wife Nichola built their successful business from humble beginnings after they were both made redundant by Sony Ericsson in 2001. Starting out as market traders selling short-dated stock, the couple progressed into food wholesale, supplying other market traders. From wholesale, they moved into a number of retail outlets that supplied both the public and wholesale trade and finally Approved Food was born in 2009.
The secret to Approved Food success.
Dan’s background as a test development engineer at Sony Ericsson might not seem relevant to the online grocery business. However, it’s this extensive knowledge of software, systems and processes that has helped turn Approved Food into the efficient, low waste, high productivity business it is today. All the programming and stock handling software has been developed by Dan, starting with the barcode scanning programme he designed when he was a ‘man with a van’ market trader almost 15 years ago. Back then, his scanning software enabled him to get an idea of how much he could sell and at what price point so he could empty his van every market day. He might have a 59,000 ft warehouse instead of a van today but those same principles apply, with Dan and his team constantly looking for ways to make the business run more efficiently. The speed of the ‘pick and pack’ process is a prime example, with staff managing to pick up to 1,000 items per hour. Dan also recognises how important it is to understand his customers. That’s why every customer order is analysed so he can build up a picture of what his customers want.
Dan might run a tight ship, but he’s quick to point out that Approved Food isn’t like other companies who maximise profits off the back of their workers. You won’t find any zero hours contracts at Approved Food. Yes, the staff work hard, but some have been with him since the early days and Dan takes their performance into account when it comes to the annual pay review.
So what’s the big deal?
So just how much can customers expect to save? Here are some examples of the offers I spotted on the Approved Food website (subject to availability):
Mars Bar (51g), Best before September 2017 10p (RRP 60p)
Kettle Chips Sweet Chilli and Sour Cream Flavour (40g), Expiry May 2017 4 for £1 (RRP £0.75 each)
Diet Coke (330ml), Best before January 2017 6 for £1 (RRP £0.68 each)
Champneys Bubble Heaven Gift Set (3 x 300ml) £19.99 (RRP £28.95)
Water Wipes baby wipes £1 (RRP £2.50)
Mexican Fajita Kit, Best before 6th February 2017 2 for £1 (RRP £3.19)
Can Approved Food replace your weekly grocery shop?
Unlike your local supermarket, Approved Food isn’t the place for your weekly grocery shop, nor does it claim to be. For example, your bargain gift box of Thorntons chocolates for only 25p (RRP £6.00) or your £1 pack of ‘Waterwipes’ (RRP £2.50) may be here today and gone tomorrow. However, Approved Food has carved a niche for those customers who are looking to stock up on bulk buy bargains like washing powder, alcohol, beauty products and toiletries. It’s also an option savvy shoppers who are keen to ‘top up’ their usual supermarket shop with low-cost deals. Ironically, some of the bargain products they select may have started life in the very same supermarket!
Find out more.
Over to you.
Have you heard of Approved Food or are you already one of their customers? Are you happy to buy products for you and your family that are beyond their best before dates? Do you mind spending £5.99 on delivery* costs if it means you can save up to 70% off RRP? As always, I’d love to hear from you.
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This is a collaborative post. As always, my opinions are my own honest assessment.