Su­per­mar­ket in Denmark of­fers fresh take on ex­pired food

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

It may be past its sell-by date, but for many Danes it’s a tasty propo­si­tion: A su­per­mar­ket in Copen­hagen sell­ing sur­plus food has proved to be so pop­u­lar it re­cently opened a sec­ond store. Af­ter launch­ing in the gritty in­ner city dis­trict of Amager ear­lier this year, the “We­food” pro­ject ear­lier this month drew a long line as it opened a sec­ond branch in Nor­re­bro, a trendy neigh­bor­hood pop­u­lar with left-lean­ing aca­demics and im­mi­grants.

Hip­sters rubbed shoul­ders with work­ing class mums as a cook­ing school founded by Claus Meyer-a co-founder of Copen­hagen’s cel­e­brated Noma restau­rant-handed out cau­li­flower soup and bread made from sur­plus in­gre­di­ents. “It’s awe­some that in­stead of throw­ing things out they are choos­ing to sell it for money. You sup­port a good cause,” said Signe Skov­gaard Sorensen, a stu­dent, af­ter pick­ing up a bot­tle of up­scale olive oil for 20 kro­ner (2.7 eu­ros, $2.9). “Isn’t it great?” pen­sioner Olga Fruer­lund said, hold­ing up a jar of sweets that she planned to give to her grand­chil­dren for Christ­mas.

The sweets “can last for a hun­dred years be­cause there is sugar in them,” she added. Sell­ing ex­pired food is le­gal in Denmark as long as it is clearly ad­ver­tised and there is no im­me­di­ate dan­ger to con­sum­ing it. “We look, we smell, we feel the prod­uct and see if it’s still con­sum­able,” pro­ject leader Bas­sel Hmei­dan said. All prod­ucts are do­nated by pro­duc­ers, im­port and ex­port com­pa­nies and lo­cal su­per­mar­kets, and are col­lected by We­food’s staff, all of whom are vol­un­teers. The store’s profit goes to char­ity. Prices are around half of what they would be else­where, but even its big­gest fans would strug­gle to do their weekly shop here. The prod­ucts avail­able de­pend on what is avail­able from donors, re­sult­ing in an eclec­tic mix that changes from day to day. One week­day af­ter­noon, cus­tomers were greeted by a moun­tain of Dis­ney and Star Wars-branded pop­corn, while the fresh fruit sec­tion had been re­duced to a hand­ful of rot­ting ap­ples.

Grow­ing aware­ness

Food waste has be­come an in­creas­ingly hot topic in re­cent years, with ini­tia­tives rang­ing from a French ban last year on de­stroy­ing un­sold food Vprod­ucts, to a global net­work of cafes serv­ing dishes with food des­tined for the scrap heap. The Bri­tain-based The Real Junk Food Pro­ject also opened the coun­try’s first food waste su­per­mar­ket in a ware­house near Leeds in Septem­ber. With a greater fo­cus than its Dan­ish peer on feed­ing the poor, the Bri­tish pro­ject urges cus­tomers to sim­ply “pay as they feel”.

A UN panel said ear­lier this month that su­per­mar­kets’ pref­er­ence for per­fect look­ing pro­duce and the use of ar­bi­trary “best be­fore” la­bels cause mas­sive food waste that if re­versed could feed the world’s hun­gry. Nearly 1.3 bil­lion tons of food are wasted ev­ery year, more than enough to sus­tain the one bil­lion peo­ple suf­fer­ing from hunger glob­ally, the United Na­tions’ Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) said.

Denmark has man­aged to re­duce its food waste by 25 per­cent over the past five years, partly due to the in­flu­en­tial “Stop Wast­ing Food” group founded by Rus­sian-born ac­tivist Selina Juul in 2008. Juul grew up in the 1980s Soviet Union and says she was shocked by the amount of food be­ing thrown away in Denmark when she moved there as a 13 year old in 1993. “Sur­plus food has be­come very pop­u­lar,” she said of one of the mea­sures ad­vo­cated by the group: of­fer­ing heavy dis­counts on items that are about to ex­pire, which is now done by most Dan­ish su­per­mar­kets.

Su­per­mar­kets chang­ing

In­spired by Juul, one of Denmark’s big­gest dis­count chains, Rema 1000, has be­come an un­likely cham­pion in the bat­tle against food waste. Two of its main ini­tia­tives are about re­duc­ing waste af­ter the prod­uct has been sold: The com­pany stopped of­fer­ing bulk dis­counts in 2008 so that sin­gle-per­son house­holds would not buy more than they could eat. Last year it re­duced the size and price of some of its bread loaves for the same rea­son. “The big­gest prob­lem with food waste is among the cus­tomers,” said John Wag­ner, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Dan­ish Gro­cers’ As­so­ci­a­tion. Reg­u­lar su­per­mar­kets were be­com­ing bet­ter at fore­cast­ing de­mand for dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, but they needed to do more to in­form their cus­tomers that a lot of food is ed­i­ble be­yond its ex­piry date. We­food next year plans to open in Aarhus, Denmark’s sec­ond largest city, but Wag­ner said the brand was un­likely to be­come a ma­jor chain. “The prob­lem should be solved be­fore we get to the point where we have to give the prod­ucts to a store like We­food,” he said.—AFP

COPEN­HAGEN : This file photo shows peo­ple shop­ping in the We­food su­per­mar­ket that sells food past its sell-by date at Amager in Copen­hagen, Denmark. —AFP

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