Members of the EU Platform meet with food waste entrepreneurs from the "Taskforce Circular Economy in Food"

From fruit liqueurs and carrot juice to fish food made with insects, Dutch entrepreneurs are launching one innovation after another in their fight against food waste. This was evident during the Taskforce Circular Economy in Food (TCEF) event, held, on 1 October 2018, for Taskforce partners and members of the European Food Losses & Food Waste platform. The Taskforce is one of four national platforms launched within the REFRESH project.

"This carrot is so large that supermarkets will not accept it" says Bob Hutten, director of Van Hutten Catering and innovation centre THREE SIXTY, pointing to a beautiful, but rather oversized, bright orange specimen. "And these mushrooms have too many spots; that celery too many leaves," he continues. "All unsellable in the store!"

Hutten is giving, the 40 or so participants in the Taskforce event, a guided tour through 'his' Wastefactory in Veghel. Here, since 2017, vegetables, fruit and meat, that have been rejected or left over from supermarkets, caterers and processors, are transformed into soups, sauces and ragout. And they taste great, according to the enthusiastic reactions of test participants during the tasting.

Worldwide sales market
Visits to Protix (in Dongen) and VanrijsingenGreen (in Helmond) – innovators in valorization of agrifood weaste streams - also impress the participants. Tarique Arsiwalla and Kees Aarts, the entrepreneurs behind Protix, have created an 'insect factory' where, every day, a large number of sustainable products roll off the assembly line - from fish feed and soil improver to dog, cat and chicken feed. The products go to buyers worldwide. Carrot pulp, kale juice and other vegetable products from VanrijsingenGreen also find their way toglobal markets.

The optimistic entrepreneur-participants, who share their stories after the company visits, have yet to develop worldwide sales markets for their products. But they are in the process. "We now have 140,000 customers, and together they have made 85,000 meals from ‘waste’!," says Joost Rietveld, who introduced the Danish concept, Too Good To Go, into the Netherlands at the beginning of this year. Too Good To Go is an app through which users can buy (excess) food from restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets at reduced prices. "We keep the concept simple, which makes it easily scalable," says Rietveld.

In addition to their enthusiasm and drive, all these entrepreneurs have something in common: they work closely with other parties inside and outside the chain. And it is exactly this collaboration that is an essential condition for success, as the speakers at the closing Tasting & Talking dinner emphasized – while enjoying a menu based, of course, around 'saved' foods. "In the Netherlands, no less than ten per cent of all fruit and vegetables never make it to the stores, because they deviate from the desired norms of shape and size", says Chantal Engelen, cofounder of Kromkommer. "If we want to move beyond this ideal of beauty, we have to tackle both European legislation and the product specifications of retailers."

Kristen Hovland, CEO of Keep-iT – a sensor that indicates how long fresh produce can be kept in the store – also finds the legislation a thorny issue. "According to the law, retailers are not allowed to display or sell fresh produce that is past its use-by-date," he explains. "But with products with such a label, our sensor can help consumers at home to choose determine whether such products can still be eaten or not, rather than throwing them away immediately."

Involving consumers
So, plenty of food for thought for the participants who gathered, the following morning, at THREE-SIXTY, to renew their efforts in tackling the European food waste problem. An important agenda item was how to increase the visibility and impact of these kinds of initiatives, and how to share learning experiences as widely as possible.

"Companies, governments and social organizations in the Netherlands are tackling the problem of food waste with enthusiasm, and there is a well-developed agenda," says Marthe Huigens, project manager at the Nutrition Center, a member of the Taskforce. "But it is important that we also actively involve the consumer in our goals. This is the way to make the prevention and reduction of food waste an everyday activity for everyone. "