Supermarket in Germany Prevents Over 4 Million Pounds of Food Waste

SirPlus Market in Berlin sells healthy food at a low cost by selling quirky looking produce.

Mar 27, 2020

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The natural world around us teems with diversity. Every living thing is adorned with a distinct look and style, and even plants and animals are decorated with unique colors, speckles, contours, and sizes that make them stand out among the rest.

While we’re not always aware of it, the same is true regarding our food, as fruits and vegetables of a given variety also differ by color, shape, and size. We don’t usually see such variations because conventional supermarkets don’t sell misshapen produce, and will often discard them before they reach the shelf. But a grocery store in Berlin is changing the way we buy food.

The SirPlus Market in Berlin is one such supermarket. It takes food that conventional supermarkets won’t sell, including items that are near or passed their expiration date or are misshapen, and sells it at an 80 percent discount according to a blog in Reasons to be Cheerful.

In 2019 SirPlus saved 4.4 million pounds of food by recovering it and selling it at the Berlin location. And all of these goods are just as natural, safe, healthy, and delicious as their average-looking counterparts. These imperfections have no effect on the taste or nutrition of the food.

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All the food is inspected daily and SirPlus uses stringent quality assurance to make sure that food is safe to eat. “We check smell, taste, consistency and packaging,” SirPlus quality assurance specialist Timo Schmitt, told Klaus Sieg, the author of the blog. “If in doubt, we call in a laboratory.”

Discarding food because of visual imperfections is particularly problematic because dumping food in a landfill emits greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a humanitarian issue since that food could be used to feed millions of food insecure families every year.

Food is wasted at several spots along the supply and demand chain at the farm, in transport, at supermarkets, and at home. While there are many reasons for food waste, a large portion is discarded simply because its misshapen and ugly. 

Conventional supermarkets will categorize food with imperfections such as a lump or discoloration as inappropriate to sell. A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh in Scotland showed that in Europe alone approximately 50 million tons of fruit and vegetables are rejected annually because of how they look.

And its’ not just SirPlus that is making the best of strange-looking food; in fact, there is an entire “ugly produce” movement that seeks to encourage retailers and consumers to opt for misshapen fruits and vegetables.

Over the past several years, numerous private businesses, non-profit organizations, community groups, and individual activists have joined the movement- each contributing to food recovery in their own way.

Food & Wine Magazine and activist Jordan Figueiredo uses social media to promote imperfect produce, using hashtags like #LoveUglyFood according to The Washington Post. He also petitioned massive retailers like Whole Foods and Walmart to minimize restrictions on appearance standards.

A food delivery service called Imperfect Foods is another company that makes it easy to get involved in the ugly food movement. The company helps people purchase organic and misshapen food with a few simple clicks.

Governments can also get involved to help reduce unnecessary food waste. France, for example, banned supermarkets from dumping food in landfills. Instead, the law encourages them to either donate it, sell it, or recycle it using composting or anaerobic digestion.

Policies such as France’s provide incentives for companies like SirPlus and Imperfect Foods to tackle food waste. By thinking creatively, these companies and many others like them have found a way to make healthy and delicious food affordable and accessible in a sustainable way.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.