Shelf Engine Raises $41 Million to Reduce Grocery Store Food Waste

By Jemima McEvoy Monday, March 22, 2021

Shelf Engine has raised $41 million in a Series B funding round. The Seattle-based startup is hoping to transform grocery stores by reducing food waste. The company uses intelligent automation and forecasting to chip away at the over 43 billion pounds of food wasted by the grocery industry every year while also reducing losses for its customers.

A woman scanning a grocery barcode with her smartphone.

What Is Shelf Engine?

The startup was co-founded by entrepreneurs Stefan Kalb and Bede Jordan in 2014. According to the company website, Kalb first discovered the problem of food waste while running a grab-and-go food company, Molly’s Salads, which he started five years prior. Realizing food waste was eating away at the bottom line of his business, Kalb decided to team up with Jordan, who was an engineer at Microsoft, to found Shelf Engine with a goal of dramatically transforming the food supply chain by reducing waste and increasing sales.

Officially incorporated in 2016, the company gained its first customer, Metier Café, in March 2017 and has since grown considerably to serve national clients, like Whole Foods, and employ over 100 people. The company has expanded significantly over the past three years.

Money and Investors

The company has raised a total of $58.2 million since it was founded. The first round of funding for the business came in 2017 when Shelf Engine pulled in $800,000 in a seed round. The funding round was led by Initialized Capital, shortly before securing a game-changing $4.3 million cash injection led by Bain Capital Ventures a year later. It’s been all momentum from the business since then, with a Series A round in July 2020 resulting in a total of $20 million from seven different big-name investors, including GGV Capital.

The biggest round of funding for the startup was the recently closed Series B, finalized this month. Shelf Engine raised a whopping $41 million from nine different investors. The funding round was led by General Catalyst, with involvement from GGV Capital, Foundation Capital, 1984 Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Founders’ Co-op, Soma Capital, Firebolt Ventures, and Initialized Capital.

Future Plans

The startup company’s software — which handles the entire ordering process — is currently used in more than 2,000 grocery stores across the nation, according to Crunchbase. Raising its customers’ profit margins sometimes by more than 50%, the goal of the company will be to expand its business into more stores and chains. A sign of its growth, Shelf Engine also hopes to double its team by the end of the year, the company told Crunchbase.

Though the future looks bright, the startup may face the challenge of competition from big companies noticing the same problem of food waste and searching for their own solutions. Amazon, for example, is making big moves in the grocery industry and, according to Kalb, has the potential to come up with its own systems to reduce waste and sell products for less money, sidelining the need for Shelf Engine’s business.

Final Takeaways

The startup has already built a sizable customer base in just a few short years, also catching the eye of numerous big-name investors. Though disrupted by COVID-19, the founders of Shelf Engine believe the pandemic has only exacerbated the need for the business — plus, the company has a proven track record of boosting its customers’ profit, a pitch that really sells itself.

About the Author

Headshot of Jemima McEvoy

Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.

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