From a magic box which allows consumers to buy surplus food from shops and restaurants, to an exclusive liqueur made from recovered apples, Dutch start-up entrepreneurs are driven and creative in the fight against food waste. Four of them tell their stories.
Too big; too small; too many spots: many apples do not meet supermarket quality standards, as Welie van Leon, the son of a fruit grower, knows better than anyone. "They can be processed into applesauce, apple pie or animal feed, but this earns very little for the farmer," he says.
Van Leon thought that all these discarded apples (also pears and cherries) deserved a better end, and decided to make exclusive liqueurs. After a month or so of experimenting, his first bottle was ready for sale. Barely two years later, nine fruit liqueurs and distillates make up his product range, brewed in his own distillery, and available at around 100 outlets in the Netherlands. And Van Leon isn’t short on ambition. "There are so many lovely products you can make with recovered fruit. Together with fruit companies and beer manufacturers, I am exploring many possibilities."
Entrepreneur Joost Rietveld is also hard at work, introducing an anti-food-waste concept from Denmark. "Too Good To Go is an app through which you can buy (excess) food from restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets at reduced prices", he says. "You order a magic box without knowing the exact content, make an in-app purchase and pick up the food at an agreed time."
The people behind Too Good To Go want to limit good food ending up in the trash. They’re doing well. "We started with twenty-five locations participating, at the beginning of the year, and now have more than six hundred", illustrates Rietveld. His 160,000 customers have, so far, saved around 100,000 meals. If it is up to the entrepreneur, this is just the start. "We will keep the concept simple, which makes it easy to scale."
Explaining your ideas to governments is anything but simple, says Stefan Baecke, founder of Yespers. "We started Yespers in 2014, with the goal of building a sustainable and social food chain," he says. "First we look at where and how things go wrong in the chain, identify solutions to those problems and determine the investment needed to implement the solutions. Almost all government interventions begin with an investment project."
Yespers makes delicious and healthy breakfast products - fruit spreads and granola's - with ingredients that are purchased directly from local farmers. "We try, as much as possible, to source and process locally", says Baecke. "We see this as a way to prevent food waste, create jobs and help farmers make more profit." Baecke's perseverance is being rewarded: since coming on the market in 2015, his products are now available at various (online) ‘stores’ like Picnic and Hello Fresh and both online and in-store at Jumbo.
Just like the other three entrepreneurs, Anne Reijnders from De Lekkere Man also wants to make consumers think more about their food. "We have a specialized food system in Europe where farmers breed animals that are good at producing milk or eggs or meat," she says. "So you can see that a laying hen looks very different than a meat chicken; one is slender, the other, of course, is fat."
Due to this specialization we get the strange situation of having created a living ‘waste’ product: with the milk and egg animals only the females are of economic value to the farmer. "Male chicks are often gassed within twenty-four hours and are sold to zoos and pet food manufacturers. Bulls and goats go to a common unit for fattening where, after a relatively short life, they are slaughtered and the meat sold to southern Europe."
Reijnders wants to tell the story to the consumer and to give the males more value. "When consumers start to value and buy male-animal meat, their economic value goes up and farmers can give the animals a better life."