A man using a forklift to move boxes of frozen macaroni and cheese

Land O’Lakes innovation through Spoiler Alert featured in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards

Our farmer-owned cooperative donated five times more food in 2023 than in previous years.

Land O’Lakes is featured as an honoree in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards for our work with Spoiler Alert, which improved our process of donating food to more families in need.
The annual list from Fast Company showcases the businesses and organizations driving change in the world, and our collaboration with Spoiler Alert was highlighted in the Corporate Social Responsibility category as an honorable mention. 
Historically, the shorter shelf life of dairy has made it difficult to donate unsold food products to communities in need before they expire. This is why the Dairy Foods operations and logistics teams, in conjunction with the Land O’Lakes Community Relations and Foundation teams, began working with Spoiler Alert to digitize and streamline the logistics of short-dated inventory. These enhancements have enabled us to expedite quality food through the secondary sales market and donate the rest to Feeding America food banks near our distribution centers—with the added benefits of keeping food out of landfills and saving thousands in recycling and landfill fees. 


Since joining forces with Spoiler Alert, we’ve donated more than 3.6 million pounds of Land O’Lakes product—five times more food in 2023 than in previous years. Not only that, in just one year alone, we surpassed our 2030 enterprise goal of 3 million pounds of product donations.
Based on our early success in achieving this enterprise goal, we are expanding our Zero Hunger goal from 3 million to 15 million pounds of in-kind product donations by 2030.
"The Land O'Lakes Foundation and Dairy Foods team used Spoiler Alert's technology to increase donations fivefold and simultaneously decrease food waste," said Sheilah Stewart, SVP & General Counsel, Land O’Lakes, Inc. "We are honored by Fast Company's recognition of this innovation that has allowed us to further invest in the fight against hunger."
"Spoiler Alert is thrilled to have received this recognition from Fast Company. We are proud to support our clients with the technology they need to help achieve their food waste reduction goals and drive positive change for their business and the community," says Ari Hopkinson, vice president of Customer Success at Spoiler Alert.
Keep reading to learn more about how we are going high-tech to fight food waste and feed communities in need.


The challenge

If you’ve ever donated old clothes or household items, you probably experienced a relatively easy, straightforward and fast process. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for large food donations. When a dairy company like Land O’Lakes, Inc. donates food to the community, it’s typically a manual process: identifying available inventory, aligning that product with the needs of food banks, coordinating efficient transportation and recording the details in a spreadsheet. Depending on the complexities of the donation, it can take days or weeks to execute. This effort combined with the volume of product moving through the supply chain and dairy’s short shelf-life, means that there is often product that expires before it can be donated.

“No one wants to throw away quality food, but the process is time-consuming and each day matters because dairy products are more perishable than shelf-stable foods,” says Jim Spaight, sales operations manager at Land O’Lakes. “We know donating unsold product is the right thing to do, but after the sales process there sometimes simply wasn’t enough time left to get the extra product into the community.”
Nearly 40% of all food in the U.S. is wasted, and food waste is the largest contributor to landfills, according to national non-profit ReFED. At the same time, a USDA report shows 34 million Americans are food-insecure, meaning they do not have consistent access to enough food for every person in their household, one in nine of which are children. In a country where so much good food is wasted, the Dairy Foods operations and logistics teams, in conjunction with the Land O’Lakes Community Relations and Foundation team, knew they had to come up with a solution to get more of our food to people in need. 

The solution  

While donating excess product with remaining shelf-life seems like a no-brainer, figuring out the logistics to do so was a daunting task until Land O’Lakes engaged with Spoiler Alert, a consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales software platform that digitizes and streamlines the sale of short-dated inventory by introducing automation into existing workflows.  
The first step in our Spoiler Alert process is making secondary-market sales of unsold product. Once complete, the remaining lot is offered to Feeding America food banks near Land O’Lakes distribution centers. A manual process that used to take days and weeks now takes hours through the power of technology. It’s an efficient and effective way to move quality food through the sales cycle on a weekly basis and donate the rest. And, with the Land O’Lakes Community Relations and Foundation team providing transportation costs, the process is free of charge for the community.
“By automating manual tasks and streamlining processes, we’ve helped free up valuable hours for the teams at Land O’Lakes that can be redirected toward other important initiatives,” says  Ari. “We estimate with these changes that 64% less time and effort are being spent on the secondary sales and donation processes"

The waste-reduction impact 

In 2022, the Land O’Lakes Foundation worked with the Dairy Foods and Logistics teams to donate 750,000 lbs. of product to communities across the country. This includes both new and unsold product donated primarily to Feeding America food banks located where our employees and members live and work.
Since joining forces with Spoiler Alert, more than 3.6 million pounds of Land O’Lakes product was  donated to hunger-relief nonprofits for $112,000 in freight costs in 2023. That is five times as much product donated as in previous years. This work has also saved the business nearly $200,000 in recycling and landfill fees in one year.
In 2020, Land O’Lakes, Inc. set an enterprise goal, aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger, by committing 3 million pounds of product donations by 2030. We are projected to surpass that number in 2023 alone.  
“Working with Spoiler Alert and Feeding America is helping us feed more families in need while simultaneously supporting Land O’Lakes’ goals to reduce food waste,” says Amy Podlesak, Community Relations and Foundation manager, “As an organization, we’re constantly exploring how to use innovation in problem-solving. This is one of the unexpected ways leveraging technology has helped our farmer-owned cooperative improve food security across the country.”  

The community impact  

The Feeding America food bank in Fresno, California, is one organization receiving these donations. Since March, Land O’Lakes has provided over 624,000 lbs. of donated items to the food bank.   
“Countless times our member partners have shared how much our community loves receiving butter, cheeses and other foods that supplement their meals,” says Casondra Webb, director of Programs & Partnerships at Central California Food Bank. “We truly value this partnership, and so does our community!” 
The Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva, Illinois, has also been receiving Land O’Lakes donations and sends dairy products to over 40 agencies in their network, ranging from food pantries to school distributions.  
“Since February 2023, we have received an incredible 96,009 pounds of food donations. That’s equivalent to over 80,000 meals, enough to feed 73 people three meals a day for a year,” says Jacob Lamplough, interim director of Food Procurement at Northern Illinois Food Bank. “These donations have been instrumental in providing our neighbors with the high-quality Land O’Lakes products that they love, need and deserve.”