Waste Not
Supermarkets Roll Out New Initiatives to Future-Fit Global Food Systems

Supermarkets across the globe are doing their part to future fit the food system by rolling out new initiatives and products that aim to tackle food waste and CO2 emissions.

An IGA in Montreal, Quebec’s Saint-Laurent borough has become Canada’s first grocery store to sell produce grown on its own roof. The supermarket was ordered by the city to install a green roof on its 25,000 square-foot building, but instead of viewing the order as a constraint, owner Richard Duchemin saw an opportunity to create a new revenue stream while boosting the ‘buy local’ movement.

In lieu of installing a traditional green roof, Duchemin built an organic garden, where 30 different vegetables — including kale, beets, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes and herbs — are grown. The crops are then packaged for sale in the store at prices competitive with other organic produce. The supermarket’s garden also houses eight beehives, which produce around 600 jars of honey per year.

Much like Brooklyn Grange in Brooklyn, New York, the IGA produces its produce in soil rather than hydroponic systems, allowing the vegetables to be certified organic by independent auditing body Ecocert Canada.

While installation costs for green roofs can be considerable, the garden has already begun to bring about several financial and environmental benefits. The LEED Gold certified store has seen a decrease in energy consumption and related costs thanks to the extra insulation provided by the green roof and has created a new habitat for insects and birds. Additionally, the garden’s irrigation system uses water recycled from the store’s dehumidification system, which would have otherwise been wasted.

While Zaluvida Corporate AG is busy paving the way for ‘climate-friendly beef’, Swiss supermarket chain Coop is looking lower down on the food chain to satiate their consumers’ appetites for traditional beef and pork products. In collaboration with Swiss startup Essento, the company has begun rolling out mealworm burger patties and meatballs.

The move was made possible by a new law by the Federal Office for Food Safety, which allows the consumption of insect proteins, as long as the products meet strict sanitary and safety regulations.

The burger patties — a mix of mealworms, rice, carrots, leeks and spices — hit shelves earlier this week and cost 8.95 CHF for a pack of two — double the price of Coop’s Naturplan Bio organic beef burgers. The insect balls, which contain mealworms, chickpeas, onions and garlic, sell at the same price for a pack of 10.

Insect protein is slowly beginning to become a mainstream idea across Europe, but there is still a long way to go before it makes its way onto the dinner plates of the average consumer. While bugs have long been a part of culinary tradition in many African and Asian cultures, the concept is largely met by mistrust (or disgust) in other parts of the world. By adding bug-based products to its portfolio, however, Coop could help shift consumer perception of creepy crawlies from an uncomfortable food experience to a sustainable — and delicious — food source.

Meanwhile, a new store targeting food waste and food insecurity has opened in Oslo, Norway.

A spinoff of the popular Lentusgruppen supermarket chain, Best Før is the latest example of how government and industry working together to reduce waste across the food industry. The store peddles products past their best-before date — products that other stores and suppliers would typically throw away.

Products are priced accordingly, selling for 50 percent or more less than their original price. Though still in its early days, the model could prove to be appealing to Norwegians, who are used to shelling out considerable sums for food items, particularly dairy products.

“Most supermarkets won’t buy products that are within 10 days or so of their expiry date — it often has to be wasted,” Naeeh Ahmed, operations manager at Best Før, told The Guardian. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we make a place that has that kind of product, that will be beneficial to every party: the consumer, the supplier and us.’ A win-win for everybody.”

Since 2010, Norway has been working to engage the food industry to create solutions that reduce food waste throughout the supply chain in an effort to curb the 978,000 tons of CO2 emitted each year from food waste alone. In addition to the establishment of stores such as Best Før, the roll out of measures such as smaller packages of food, increased consumer education and product label adaptations helped the country reduce its food waste by 12 percent per person by 2015 — half of what it had hoped to achieve in the same period.

According to a report by The Guardian, food waste in Norway still amounts to 355,000 tons a year, approximately 42.1kg of food per person, of which produce constitutes 11 percent and dairy products four percent.

Best Før has also launched a digital platform called bestfor.no that lets supermarkets identify food approaching its best-by date through a digital record, allowing the store to re-price the items without having to search the shelves physically to locate them.

Similar models have also been popping up across the US, with stores such as Dorchester, Mass.’s Daily Table joining forces with local growers, supermarkets, manufacturers and other suppliers to provide affordable and healthy food options for communities. Partners donate their excess, healthy foods to the store, which then sells them at prices competitive with fast food options. The store offers both ‘grab-n-go’ ready to eat meals which it prepares on site and a selection of produce, bread, dairy and grocery items.


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