Did you know that 58% of carrots grown in the UK go to waste? For every carrot you buy, another one was thrown away. It’s one of the many striking facts about food waste I picked up from Tristram Stuart’s book on the subject. A third of the food we buy in Britain never gets eaten, and that’s just at the household level. More food is thrown away at the retail and distribution level, right back to the farm. It’s a waste of money, energy and land, and rather perverse in a world where many people don’t have enough to eat – Britain and its food banks included.
There are all sorts of ways to address the problem, from changing consumer behaviour to relaxing EU regulations. Today I just wanted to highlight two small businesses that have spotted a business opportunity in food waste and done something proactive and innovative about it.
The first is Rubies in the Rubble. They’re based near Spitalfields market, one of the country’s biggest wholesale markets for fruit and vegetables, and it produces 200 tonnes of waste every week. Rubies in the Rubble buy up surplus stock that would otherwise be thrown away at the end of the day, and take it to their kitchen next door. There it gets turned into jams, chutneys and pickles, sold at delis around London and the South East, as well as Waitrose supermarkets. They also buy up ‘outgrade’ produce – fruits and vegetables that are perfectly edible and tasty but don’t meet the supermarkets’ strict standards on size, shape and appearance.
“Preserves are what we make, by hand and with care,” the company says, but the word “also sums up our mission: to Preserve, to Serve, and to Save.” Rubies in the Rubble also aims to employ those struggling to find work, offering them training and adding a social element to their business.
Along similar lines, Snact is a social enterprise that seeks to tackle food waste and food poverty at the same time. They buy up surplus fruit and turn it into fruit jerky, sold as a healthy snack option on Lower Marsh Market, just down the road from my office in London. Snact is very small at the moment, just two ‘snacktivists’ interested in “creatively using food as a powerful tool to achieve positive social and environmental outcomes.” As the business grows, the plan is to recruit people who have been affected by food poverty to sell the snacts from market stalls and mobile stands, and they’ll get a share of the profits as well as their wages.
Snact is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to take their business to the next stage, improving the packaging and scaling up production. If you’d like to back the campaign and taste the goods, stop by their Crowdfunder page.