Food Waste Supermarkets

What is a Food Waste Supermarket?


A revolutionary way of doing groceries is now popping up around us: the food waste supermarkets !

88 million tons of edible food is wasted each year in the EU while more than one in three workers have difficulty making ends meet. Food waste supermarkets counter those astounding numbers since they are only supplied with products whose best-before date has expired or whose packaging is damaged. These products thus get another chance to be eaten instead of directly going to the bin. And because they all come from donations, prices are very attractive.

At WeFood, the first food waste supermarket, opened in February 2016 in Copenhagen, customers have access to products cheaper by 30 to 50 %. If providing more affordable products is one of WeFood’s goals it sure isn’t the only one! The original objective was to fight food waste in Denmark while raising money to combat famine in impoverished countries and refugee camps. And the fact that the whole supermarket is entirely handled by volunteers also helps reducing the costs.

Since then, many food waste supermarkets opened! The Warehouse (UK), The Good Food (Germany) and OzHarvest Market (Australia) have a slightly different concept since they decided to work with a pay-as-you-want policy. The products do not have a fixed price and customers pay what they can afford or what they feel like paying for the products. Then, at Foodprint (UK), created by a group of students, food is sold as cheaply and sustainably as possible. They also work with local social eating organizations and community cafes.

And since those supermarkets do not work on a social basis, customers in all layers of society are welcome to shop there, no need of a membership card or anything. They could also help people dependent on social assistance to emancipate themselves from it.

The spreading of such supermarkets already generates a huge impact on reducing food waste around the world meanwhile helping people with small revenues and raising awareness around food waste. Less wasted food, meaning less wasted resources, and for a cheaper price, what else could we ask for?


5 steps to create a Food Waste Supermarket!

Now that you know all the advantages of food waste supermarkets, you sure wonder how to open such a store! Here are the 5 steps you need:

The first step to create a food waste supermarket is to learn about the legislation in your country. For instance, in Denmark, the “best-before dates” are an agreement between the producer and the seller. This means that no law forbids the sell of products after their best-before dates. If it’s the same in your country, then the first step is already done! Nevertheless, don’t forget to check the quality of all your products to avoid selling products that don’t taste fresh anymore.

Let’s talk about the second step: how to get the products? The best way to do so is to build strong partnerships with suppliers: retailers, supermarket stores or warehouses. It is also important to evaluate who could be your potential competitors (food banks or social groceries). Once you know who your competitors are, evaluate your strengths and use them to convince suppliers to donate to your project. A good visibility thanks to strong communications channels can be one of them.

Then, evaluating the costs is the next step! How will you fund everything? Would you have a brick-and-mortar store, including rental, heating, electricity etc.? Or will you take profit of the new technologies and sell on the web? Hiring employees also raises the costs. So, will the supermarket be held by volunteers, employees or a mix of both? And don’t forget all the costs linked to the transportation: cars, fuel and maintenance.

Now, you still have to determine what kind of food waste supermarket you want to be. Will you sell the products as cheaply as possible, have a pay-as-you-want policy or earn money for another cause?

The last step would be to think about the long term. What would be the next challenges? Would an expansion be feasible?

What about a food waste supermarket in Belgium to tackle food waste in our country?

You have been wanting to build an innovative project around food waste? Creating a food waste supermarket is a unique challenge! If you want to take action, contact FoodWIN!

What can you do in an existing shop to reduce food waste?

Each day huge amounts of food is thrown away by supermarkets: spoiled fruits and vegetables, products whose packages are damaged and most of all products that were not sold on time. All that food is still perfectly edible but for some reason it is currently wasted.

If you noticed edible food is wasted in your shop or the supermarket you’re working in and you are wondering how to reduce it. Know that there are plenty of innovative solutions to tackle food waste!

  • Having an accurate inventory system

Sometimes the biggest cause of food waste is a bad inventory system. Orders that are not adapted to the shop or the current events (the different seasons, special events such as Christmas or New Year’s Eve, etc.) can quickly lead to oversupply. Moreover, the inventory system of a retailer may need to change not only with the seasons but also with the passing years and trends. Is your inventory system as efficient as it can be?

  • Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go is an app, first launched in Germany and currently used in 8 European countries, whose goal is to link supermarkets to customers. Thanks to this app, supermarkets can communicate their unsold or discount products to neighboring customers. The more people are informed about the discounts of the supermarket, the more likely these products will get sold: a real win-win for shops and customers!

  • MyFoody

This organization, coming from Italy, works on two levels. First, they help stores to manage their products thanks to a waste management and a trade marketing solution. In within the supermarkets they make a co-branded ‘no waste area’ where the expiring items are placed. MyFoody also gives visibility to the shops by communicating their commitment in reducing food waste. Then, a bit like Too Good To Go does, they advertise these products on their app. Customers then only have to show up at the ‘no waste area’ to get the products they want.

  • Labels and awareness

A lot of customers misinterpret ‘best-before dates’ labels with ‘expiry dates’ labels. When ‘best-before dates’ are passed, the products are still edible for weeks or months depending on the items. This label just means that their taste or color may have changed a bit but it is still safe to consume them. On the other hand, when ‘expiry dates’ are over, food should not be eaten at all. Raising awareness amongst the customers can thus help them making smarter choices.

  • Chef meals in supermarkets

Two years ago, the Dutch Plus-supermarkets had a brilliant idea and hired a chef to cook with unsold products that are about to be wasted. Those fresh meals of the day are then put on sale on the shelves for a moderate price, and this is a real success! Products that would previously have ended up in the bin are thus given a second life and transformed into tasty food again. A nice way to prevent food waste while helping shops to make the most out of their products!

  • Food waste shelf

This past March a supermarket of Wageningen, Netherlands, opened the first food waste shelf ! A shelf where only products made from food that would otherwise be wasted stand. What can you find there? Soups, sauces, jams, soaps and beers produced with food surplus. Putting  products made out of food surplus in the spotlight helps solving food waste at another level.

There are so many original solutions to reduce food waste in a supermarket! So, ready to take action? What are you waiting for?