Delicious isn’t necessarily the first adjective that springs to mind when waxing lyrical about food waste. Nonetheless, Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo is using a new initiative to help the world pull off a collective 180˚ turn in how it perceives rubbish.
Waste Is Delicious (Verspilling is Verrukkelijk, if you speak Dutch) is a bid to transform produce that would otherwise be binned into real, consumable food. The initiative kicked off at Jumbo’s Wageningen branch in late March – to resounding success.
“We sold about 700 items in one week,” branch entrepreneur George Verberne told Thomson Reuters in an interview. “It’s double what we sell for organic products. I’m proud and very happy we’re the first to do it.”
The initiative, supported by a local university as part of a new nation-wide program called United Against Food Waste, sees foods destined for the compost put to good use – think ‘ugly’ vegetables being reimagined as ingredients for soups and chutneys, stale bread getting transformed into beer, and even soaps made with discarded fruit skins.
The philosophy behind Waste Is Delicious isn’t just rooted in food, however. “The problem lies in the hidden impact [of food waste],” says the Waste is Delicious website. “The hidden impact is mainly in the production, packaging and transport of food. Remember, for example that 15,000 litres of water is needed to produce 1kg of beef. So when we throw away a packet of minced meat, we not only throw away the meat, but also the water. And you can also think of the plastic packaging that was produced for nothing and the CO2 that was emitted during transport.”
“We sold about 700 items in one week. It’s double what we sell for organic products. I’m proud and very happy we’re the first to do it.”
Waste is Delicious is in keeping with an admirable national approach to managing and reducing food waste: in 2016, Netherlands residents celebrated a 15 per cent decrease in food waste from 2010. The Dutch government is looking to halve the amount of discarded food by 2030 – its ambition is to become the first European country to meet this goal. And who could forget the unveiling of a plastic-free aisle in the Ekoplaza supermarket earlier this year? If this is a world war on waste, the Dutch are an obvious choice for an ally.
In Australia, companies like OzHarvest and other ‘ugly food’ campaigns are aiming to ameliorate the problems caused by 7.5 million tonnes of yearly food waste. AquaBotanical is a new player in this space – it’s a company producing bottled water made from the by-products of fruit and vegetable processing. “In Australia about 20 billion litres of water comes from fruit and veg processing," AquaBotanical creator Dr Bruce Kambouris tells The Guardian. “I couldn’t understand why the juice concentration process discarded this large aqueous fraction that had lots of nutrients from the source fruit and vegetables.”
Still, it might be a while before we catch up to our Dutch rivals. There are 18 food companies and entrepreneurs across the country currently participating in Waste Is Delicious, including Kromkommer, a ‘wonky vegetable’ soup brand; Instock, a company that saves rescued potatoes and spent brewery grains and turns these ingredients into speciality beer and granola respectively; and Gro, which uses leftover coffee grounds from Dutch cafes to grow mushrooms.
Researchers are keeping close watch of sales at the Wageningen Jumbo outlet over the next six months – so they can look for opportunities to expand the Waste is Delicious initiative.
Keep up to date with Verspilling is Verrukkelijk online.