How one company is combating food waste through intelligent tupperware
The Future Laboratory speaks with Tal Lapidot, CEO of Silo on how his company’s vacuum-seal storage system will change the way we interact with food in the home.
Consumers in the UK throw away 7.1 million tonnes of food per year while Americans throw away one pound of food per person each day (sources: WRAP; The Guardian). But startup Silo wants to tackle the world’s food waste problem by rethinking how we store it.
Silo is a countertop, foldable vacuum appliance and set of food-safe containers, which have special airways built into their sides. Place a container on the base and it automatically vacuums all the air out through its patented airway system. Silo also has Alexa built-in and is linked to an app, so that users can tell Alexa exactly what is in each container and receive estimated expirations dates and reminders of when food needs to be eaten. At a time when consumers are confused by ‘best-before’, ‘use-by’ and ‘once opened’ dates on food labels, Silo offers a seamless solution to an everyday problem – how to get the most out of the food in your fridge, without having to think too much about it.
In our conversation with founder Tal Lapidot we discuss the need to reinvent food storage, how convenience can act as a positive enabler of sustainability and how Silo might change our relationship to food shopping in the future.
What was the moment that led you to invent Silo?
Silo was born through a moment we all share: when you open your fridge and food that was forgotten or passed its prime is thrown away. For me, it was a moldy box of overly expensive cherry tomatoes that galvanized me to action. I started looking for an off-the-shelf solution and settled on vacuum storage because of its proven benefits, however, I couldn’t find a product that I felt I could actually use on a daily basis. Existing solutions felt cumbersome and not adaptable to our modern lifestyle; I knew they would die in my gadget drawer. I wanted a tool, not a gadget and I couldn’t find it, so being an engineer, I decided to make one of my own.
Why did you choose to make Silo smart and Alexa-enabled, as opposed to simply a vacuum-packing system?
Silo is designed to extend freshness and let you enjoy your food longer. With that said, we realised early on that vacuum packing alone is not a sufficient solution. You see, people have no intuition for the shelf life of food in vacuum, and providing a pamphlet with shelf life recommendations is not enough. No one has time to manually label each container and, let’s face it, most of us forget what we put in the fridge last week. In order to provide a truly holistic solution, we needed to provide a convenient way to help you manage your food, let you know if it’s fresh, and remind you to consume it before it goes bad.
The Alexa component came later when we were struggling to figure out how to tag the food without compromising the user experience. Picture yourself in your kitchen: your hands are full because you’re prepping food and cooking a meal and your smartphone is not always at hand, using your voice for food tagging solved this major issue. Now, for example, you just say “strawberries” at the end of the process, and your strawberries are tagged and managed by Silo. And for any other queries you may have, what is more simple than to ask “Alexa, is the chicken still OK?”
How does Silo improve upon ‘use-by’ and expiry dates?
When you buy a pack of chips, it usually has a very long expiration date, but the moment you open the bag, that expiration date loses all meaning and the chips go stale within a few days. This is because food that is packed on an industrial packing machine is packed in a modified atmosphere, giving it an optimal shelf life that can be estimated as the use-by date, all under the assumption that it would be consumed wholly upon opening. Silo is there for when that package is opened and not fully consumed, and the use-by date is no longer relevant.
Silo is for your fresh produce that has no use-by date or for your home cooked food that you would keep in a regular Tupperware. By removing most of the oxygen, it slows down food spoilage that is mainly caused by oxidation and bacteria, giving you between two to five times longer to enjoy your food. It brings some of that industrial storage magic back to the kitchen.