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How does it feel to pitch to Richard Branson for €1.2m? This Irish company is about to find out...

Foodcloud’s Iseult Ward is among six finalists who will pitch to the Virgin Group founder for a share of the €1.2 million prize.

Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 09 (2) Conor Mc Cabe Conor Mc Cabe

IRISH COMPANY FOODCLOUD will pitch to Richard Branson in the hope of securing a share of a €1.2 million prize fund.

Foodcloud is a non-profit that redistributes leftover food from supermarkets and businesses to charities.

Speaking to ahead of Tuesday’s challenge, CEO Iseult Ward says:

I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure I’ll be very nervous on the day but at the moment I’m just focused on getting ready.

Foodcloud joins five other businesses who’ve made it to the finals of the Voom 2016 - a London-based competition which attracted over 3,000 UK and Irish entries when it started in May.

.  Richard Branson- founded Leon Farrell / Leon Farrell / /

Model and businesswoman Tyra Banks, Spanx founder Sara Blakely and Youtuber Marcus Butler will be joining Branson, the Virgin Group founder, on the judging panel.

The pitch is two minutes long and then the judges have four minutes to ask questions. There’s no PowerPoint slides or fancy videos to wow Branson and the other critics – it’s all down to your idea.

The finals on Tuesday will take place in front of an audience and will be live-streamed.

The road to London

The competition ran over 14 weeks and 160 businesses, including 14 other Irish businesses, travelled to London to take part in the semi-finals.

“It was great to meet the other Irish semi-finalists, they are all fantastic. We were all rooting for each other,” says Ward.

After several rounds the entrants were whittled down to six finalists, three in each of the two categories – Startup and Grow. Ward thinks what set them apart was their use of technology to address the problem of food waste.

13268471_1390331634326298_190727033649296012_o Food from Tesco being prepared by Cope Galway volunteers Facebook / Foodcloud Facebook / Foodcloud / Foodcloud

Foodcloud started in 2012 and now has 450 stores donating surplus food across Ireland and the UK to over 1,000 charities.

Ward says Foodcloud decided to enter the competition because they’ve “really perfected” their business model.

We’ve begun to scale across the UK. We are in the position to bring Foodcloud to the competition and hopefully get the support we need.

She says they would use the prize money to bring the company into a position to scale internationally.

The winners of each category will also receive marketing and mentoring support from members of the VOOM and Virgin Media teams.

Ward describes how valuable this would be to Foodcloud:

A lot of the award is focused on developing a marketing campaign. This would be really important for us to publicise the issue of food waste and get more businesses on board.

She says Foodcloud has “a few leads” about which country they will expand to next and are focused on where they will make the biggest impact.

Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 08 Iseult Ward, co-founder of FoodCloud and Gavan Smyth, Vice President of Virgin Business. Conor McCabe Conor McCabe

Foodcloud is competing in the Grow category – which is for businesses that are creating revenue – alongside Sibberi Tree Water and Bio-Bean.

Ward jokes that “unfortunately the competition is great”. Bio-Bean recycles coffee grounds into a log which can be burned in BBQs or stoves. She has been aware of Bio-Bean for a while and would hope to see them expanding to Ireland.

Sibberi Tree Water produce water by extracting a small amount of sap from trees. ”After spending Tuesday with Sibberi, I can also confirm that tree water is pretty delicious,” Wards adds.

The finalist projects are all social enterprises, a concept that Ward says is becoming more popular and more mainstream.

Who is to blame for food waste?

shutterstock_366324617 Shutterstock / kay roxby Shutterstock / kay roxby / kay roxby

According to UN figures, 1,300,000,000 tonnes of food is wasted globally every year, while one in every seven people experience food poverty. Foodcloud are tackling this problem by taking the excess food and give it to those who need it.

In Ireland, households spend around €700 on wasted food every year, according to Safefood figures.

While supermarkets can often be accused for being the source of food waste, Ward believes it is a “broad problem and it’s difficult to point the finger at just one place”.

A lot of food waste happens in the home but pointing the blame at any one area is ineffective if we are going to really address the issue.

Read: It is now illegal in France for supermarkets to throw away food

Read: Experts give their tips on how to reduce your waste (and save your money)

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