Food waste happens at every level of the food-production chain, from the crops grown and then rejected by supermarkets, to the over-ordering and dump-it culture of the hospitality and restaurant industries, and by us, the individual consumers, who shop thoughtlessly and throw out food easily.
The numbers are staggering. In the UK we waste 7.3 billion tonnes of food each year, according to Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). Globally, the amount of food we bin equates to around a third of agricultural land – that’s enough to feed three million people – and contributes more greenhouses gas than every country apart from the US and China. Industrial farming alone causes 70% of global deforestation and huge biodiversity loss.
Eat to beat food waste
In the last few years, a growing number of brands have sprouted, turning food waste into tasty and profitable opportunities – and many of them are right here in London. Although it’s an overwhelming problem, some are taking a proactive approach.
Toast, Farmdrop and Oddbox are just three companies making social purpose the heart and soul of their brand DNA, to tackle food waste in a variety of different ways. Working backwards from the surplus food is Toast. We chuck out almost half the bread we buy; Toast turns that leftover bread into beer and channels all of its profits into Feedback, a charity fighting food waste.
There’s certainly a large and growing community of London-based businesses developing products that upcycle and recycle surplus food,” says Louisa Ziane, Chief Brand Officer at Toast.
I think the key word is ‘community’ because there is a huge amount of collaboration and ideas sharing that goes on in London. Every night of the week here is an event at which you’ll find these companies talking and sampling products – very often Toast in some capacity.
Tackling food waste from the other end of the system is Farmdrop, an online supermarket that connects consumers directly to farmers and producers. Formerly based at The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, it tackles the over-ordering and enormous waste in the supermarket supply chain by paying farmers fairly and only ordering what each customer needs. In effect, you order directly from the farms and Farmdrop delivers it. Having launched in London, it has expanded to Bath and Bristol, and the southeast is set to follow.
Services like Farmdrop reduce food waste because every piece of fresh food that passes through our supply chain has already been ordered by a customer. At a supermarket, if food is left unsold then it will be reduced before being thrown away. Farmdrop suppliers also manage their stock at source and so have the opportunity to sell their produce to people at a farmers’ markets or in a local vegbox, for example.
says Damian Hind, Marketing Manager at Farmdrop
Oddbox is a third example (out of many more), of an on-demand brand that is tackling rejected food waste at source. This veg-box delivery service, formerly based at Parkhall Business Centre in West Dulwich, uses up wonky fruit and veg. They have 1,500 customers in south London and thousands more waiting for them to expand.
We work directly with a network of over 26 local farmers and growers to take the produce that’s too big, small, the wrong colour but tastes exactly the same or becomes surplus to demands, and deliver them direct to customers as a weekly wonky- fruit-and-veg box. We then donate up to 10% of our produce to local charities each week to help fight food poverty.
explains Emilie Vanpoperinghe, Oddbox Co-founder
Let’s get away from “waste”
None of these brands consider leftover or rejected food “waste”; it is a misleading word. Much of what we’re talking about when we say “food waste” isn’t rubbish or worthless – far from it.
These products aren’t using food waste: they use surplus food created due to overproduction, or by-products from producing other foods. We are preventing waste by creating these products. At Toast, we use the heel ends of loaves that would otherwise be discarded because they are not used in the production of sandwiches, or day-fresh whole loaves that are unsold in bakeries. We are careful not to talk about using waste as an ingredient because it creates the wrong connotations in people’s minds.
Vanpoperinghe from Oddbox agrees. “It’s all about shifting that mindset of what is deemed an acceptable-looking product and realising that although it may look different, it still tastes the same, so why shouldn’t there be a commercial opportunity there? We had one person describe the strawberries we’d rescued as the best they’d ever tasted.”
Find out more about the OddBox story and tweet your food-waste hacks to @WorkspaceGroup.
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