Online surplus food and drink retailer Approved Food is celebrating an extraordinary milestone – its one millionth order since the business began 12 years ago.

The business was the brainchild of Dan Cluderay, a former market trader with a mission – to offer direct-to-consumer deals while preventing perfectly good food from going to waste. Shortly after its launch, current owner Andy Needham got on board and the Approved Food journey began in earnest.

The pair were famously rejected on Dragons’ Den around seven years ago but since then have gone from strength to strength. Andy takes up the story: “We were approached by the Den producers and turned them down on several occasions before succumbing and agreeing to get involved. Our first mistake was approaching the show as a serious investment opportunity rather than the entertainment show we now know it is. Luckily, we gave them plenty of entertainment, Dan did his market pitching, I gave the anxious sweats and fluffed lines and bingo, we got 11 minutes of airtime – and luckily no offers.

“Although harrowing at the time we got a lot out of the experience. Peter Jones was extremely encouraging, he liked the business but he said it was too early for him but could be interested further down the track. We miffed Duncan Bannatyne off by knowing our numbers, so he couldn’t throw his usual tantrum.

“Piers Linney said we had too much debt and ironically his business went bust shortly after through having too much debt. Kelly Hoppen, was just Kelly Hoppen, definitely the whole package was not posh enough for her, and Debrorah Meaden came out with the line that will stick with me forever: “I take risks, but you are braver than me.” Yes, Deborah, we are – back bedroom, knackered van and a few calculated risks later we can celebrate our one millionth order!”

The top five most popular products to date are:

  • Lucky boxes (lucky dip boxes with random items that sell for £5 or £1 when on offer)
  • Chocolate bars
  • Crisps (every flavour)
  • Canned soft drinks
  • Tinned tomatoes and pasta

One million orders – in numbers:

  • Seven million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away in the UK every year
  • 25,000 tonnes have been prevented from going to waste by Approved Food
  • 350,000 customers from around the UK regularly place an order
  • 70% is the average saving that can be made compared with the RRP

Did you know?

  • One of the more unusual items for sale was Donald Trump printed toilet paper. It sold out within hours of appearing on the site
  • Special Penny deals send our customers into a frenzy
  • Those with a taste for luxury can also pick up a bargain on Champagne, cognac and special edition whisky.
  • Beauty-lovers can also save on leading brands such as Nip+Fab and Laura Mercier, as well as designer fragrances from Calvin Klein, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent.
  • We just bought Christmas crackers this morning, a little late or really early, you decide!

Andy added “We’ve come such a long way since Dan’s back bedroom. The complexity of what we do should not be underestimated – no two orders are the same and the number and type of products in each order can differ hugely in terms of number, weight, volume, type and fragility etc.

“A massive thank you goes out to our loyal customers and suppliers and most of all our tremendous colleagues who put a shift in every day to keep the whole machine ticking over effectively!”