GRIM – the movement against food waste
Did you know that food waste has become a great problem in the agricultural industry? Many people are unaware of the amount of food thrown away, even in their households.
Food is wasted on every level of the supply chain: in the farms, during production, processing, in supermarkets and even in our homes. To put things in perspective, millions of people live in hunger while the US itself throws away food equal to 200 billion dollars each year.
We decided to interview a Danish startup called GRIM for our campaign “Doing business with an impact”. Their vision is for a world where food waste in big amounts does not exist.
Can you tell me about your business and how it was born?
GRIM: It is called GRIM and means in Danish “ugly”. With our business, we want to fight food waste by selling “ugly” fruit and vegetables which producers cannot sell due to their shape or size, but also overproduction. When we talk about ugly, we mean second class fruit and veggies. For example, too big, too small for European marketing standards or too curvy, with strange shapes, small surface marks, etc. Basically, food that cannot be sold as first class. Often, we take also the surplus that farmers produce because they always grow extra. All our food is organic.
We have two different food subscriptions that our customers can choose from. People can choose between a small or large box every week or every second week. We recently also started to deliver to food businesses like restaurant, juice producers and baby food producers.
We established the company one year ago, but we launched the food box subscription at the beginning of July, so it has been around 10 months since we have been on the market. Our supply network covers all of Europe: we have mostly Danish farms but also farmers in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands as well as a bio wholesaler who connects us to produce from overseas.
Why do you think sustainability is important?
GRIM: The very direct answer is that if we do not change the way we eat, consume and buy, we are going to bring our planet to the state of enormous food deficit. Urgent actions are needed because our behaviour is very wasteful and we are running out of resources. So why produce more if we just have to consume smarter? Moreover, it is essential for a business to be sustainable because consumers require it.
This is how we built our business. We put sustainability at the core and build everything else around it.
How is GRIM sustainable?
GRIM: We are sustainable in the sense that we are sourcing and selling food that otherwise would be lost in landfills. The degraded food produces methane which leads to global warming. Here we can see how one global issue, such as food waste, leads directly to another.
Sometimes, farms do not just throw food in a bin. Especially when we talk about organic farms, they often use it as fertilizers or as food in animal farms. So, they are not always wasted. But if you think about the resources, such as land, water, electricity and labour, that are wasted because food that could possibly be eaten by humans is discarded, it does not make any sense to us. Therefore, we are not referring to just food waste but for waste in general.
A factor leading to the waste is that farmers are constantly pressured to provide first-class produce. But nature naturally doesn’t produce perfect food, so for the imperfect ones, which account to ca. 20-30% of everything produced, farmers often cannot free up their already little time to look for buyers for the excess food. This “loss” is calculated in the farmers budget, so normally, 20-30% of their total production will not be sold.
We are sustainable also when it comes to packaging. In fact, we are trying to use as little packaging as possible. In greater detail, we use only one plastic bag for all products per box, rather than packing each type of food in a different bag. We think this is the most sustainable existed option, for now.
How is GRIM connected to the SDGs and which one?
GRIM: SDG 12 “Responsible consumption and production” is the main goal which we work with. It is precisely what we are trying to have an impact on. In connection to production, we minimize waste at the farm and wholesaler level and tackle the issue of overproduction and depletion of resources. We also touch upon consumption. We made it very easy for people to consume sustainably by delivering the boxes directly to their places, but also to change people’s perception of what is edible and considered “good” quality – what we call GRIM quality.
What are the next steps for making GRIM greener?
GRIM: There are always ways for us to improve. One main thing is transportation. We chose food box delivery to peoples’ doors. We are aware that this is not the most sustainable way to do it but right now is the only option that we have. This is why we recently started introducing pick up places, where we incentivize people to skip the home delivery (and related delivery fees) and pick up their box instead. We are also looking into other packaging solutions. We use one plastic bag per each box, which we would love to substitute with a different material.
Do you have any tips for other companies that want to work with sustainability?
GRIM: If the core is not sustainability, you have to find another way to create a sustainable business environment inside the company. However, we think that intention is important. The drive must come from the intention of being sustainable and not for just marketing purposes. Do it because you know that this is the right choice for the planet, do not exaggerate and mislead customers.