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Member Spotlight: Emily Malina

March 20, 2018

By Camp Campbell

We’re excited to introduce you to one of our Boston chapter members, Emily Malina. 
Emily is the Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer of Spoiler Alert, a Boston-based food-tech company that helps food businesses connect surplus inventory food with a network of donation, salvage, and recycling outlets. She founded Spoiler Alert out of her graduate studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she focused on technology, sustainability, and entrepreneurship. In November 2016, Spoiler Alert raised $2.5 million in funding, led by Acre Ventures.
In this spotlight, we talk to Emily about what inspired her to tackle food waste, how the millennial generation is driving a more accountable food ecosystem, and the best leadership advice she’s received.

Tell us a little about Spoiler Alert and what inspired you to start the company?

The amount of food that goes to waste every year is staggering — it’s roughly 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. each year, which costs $218 billion annually to grow, process, transport, and discard. Food that is never eaten uses up approximately 20 percent of all farmland, fertilizer, and freshwater, is the largest contributor to our landfills, and emits harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile over 40 million Americans struggle with food insecurity.

While in graduate school at MIT, it was statistics like these that first drew my attention to the issue of food waste and its tremendous financial, environmental, and social implications. I teamed up with one of my classmates (now Co-Founder) and began exploring the role technology and data could play in tackling this issue.

Today, Spoiler Alert is a technology company helping food businesses manage unsold inventory. Our software and services empower businesses operating across global food systems to maximize efficiency, sustainability, and profitability. We partner with some of the country’s largest distributors, manufacturers, and retailers to improve their food recovery and waste diversion initiatives and keep food out of the landfill.

 

When it comes to the future of food, what partnerships and/or innovations excite you the most in terms of their ability to reduce food waste?

I am always excited when supply chain partners collaborate to reduce wasted food at the source. For example, we love to see farmers partner with wholesale distributors and grocery retailers to provide seconds – or ‘ugly’ – produce that might otherwise be overlooked be sold at a discount. Examples include The Mistfits, a partnership between Red Hat Cooperative in Canada and Robinson Fresh in the US, as well as FreshPoint’s partnership with their growers to offer Unusual but Usable produce to its customers.

Other exciting collaborations have led to the creation of new products from food that would otherwise be wasted and educate consumers on the topic of food waste. Campbell’s partnership with Food Bank of South Jersey to create the Just Peachy salsa is a perfect showcase for how this can be effective. Additional examples include ReGrained, Misfit Juicery, Barnana, and SecondsFirst.

 

How do you think consumers, and millennials in particular, are impacting the way food companies approach their responsibility to the environment and general public?

Corporate responsibility is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a competitive advantage for food businesses. Consumers, particularly millennials, are demanding transparency as they make more deliberate decisions about the food products they purchase and consume. Beyond just what a food contains, the supply chain is now coming into focus as well. The industry is responding in a number of ways, ranging from ‘smart food’ and ‘clean processing’ techniques, to major commitments focused on environmental issues.

For many of the food companies we work with, minimizing waste can be an easy win in their efforts to improve environmental performance and engage consumers. We’ve had the chance to work with some of the industry’s big players to publish community engagement reports to share their progress with their customers and employees alike.

 

 

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in the process of founding and growing Spoiler Alert?

As I was coming to the end of my MBA program at MIT, I had an offer to go work for a top consulting firm. In addition to the promising career growth that this offered, there were also remarkable benefits and meaningful stability. At this point, Spoiler Alert was still only a big idea that was not able to pay me a salary or give me any certainty about the future. In hindsight, it seems like a much safer bet now that we have an outstanding team, happy customers, and set of great investors backing our company. However, at the time that these roads diverged in 2015, it was a big risk with an uncertain outcome. Needless to say, this big risk turned into one of the most important decisions I have ever made.

 

What’s the best advice you’ve received about leadership?

Your vision is only as good as your execution, and your execution is all about your team. Build a positive, motivated culture and get the right people on board who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.

Speaking of great people, we’re hiring! Check out our open positions in product, sales, and customer success. We welcome applications and referrals from the Camp Campbell community!