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Creating new products from food waste

Rubies in the Rubble creates new products from unused fruit and veg.

Photo of Lotta
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I came across Rubies in the Rubble a while back, and was impressed by their approach. They single-handedly started going round the farms around London and collecting their surplus fruit and veg - the products that would not be used, for reasons including growing more than they could use, and cosmetic imperfections. Farmers were happy to give them the products at reduced rates, and glad someone would use them. Now, Rubies in the Rubble chutneys are sold in major food stores, as a premium brand, and are doing very well. They are working to help reimagine food 'waste', showing how it can be a powerful resource, and hoping to branch out into more products soon.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Rubies in the Rubble have rightly pointed out that quite often the products we talk about are not waste, just surplus. It follows that an important part of tackling the broader issue is a mind-set (and labelling) change. This is also true for near expiry foods, as sold by approvedfood.co.uk. Both companies are working actively to educate and bring about behaviour change in the end user.

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I work with socially driven startups to help them develop as a business, including developing their ideas, finding their first customers, and telling their story effectively.

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Photo of Kaitlin Mogentale

Hi Lotta! I have a company doing a similar thing - making snack foods from organic juice pulp (called Pulp Pantry www.pulppantry.com ) also check out Regrained - making granola bars from brewery grains ( http://www.regrained.com/ ). A big question is - are companies like ours doing well to market the products as made from what was previously considered a wasted byproduct? I always hear feedback that consumers don't want to hear what they're eating is made from "food waste" (even if you paint the picture in different terms), but I think the whole point of companies like ours are to change people's attitudes and perceptions surrounding the issue. 

Photo of Lotta

Hi Kaitlin! Thanks for your comment. And what a great business you have! I think there's a very fine line to tread here, quite similar to what manufacturers of alternative protein products (crickets etc) go through. You have a very important role to play in helping usher in new habits and expectations, but have to do so bearing consumer psychology in mind - as you say. I think the trick is to keep things light, and to get the product embedded and mainstream before pushing the backstory too hard. Lead with flavour and nutrition and layer in the message gently. The ideal scenario is when the product can stand on its own, competing with any similar product, and as a consumer I just get the added benefit of knowing I’m supporting something great at the same time. I really think this is how we change global practices - when we make it so easy to choose what’s right (a no brainer), we can’t help but change behaviour. When you do talk about the wider issue, keep it positive and be very open and detailed about how the product is chosen and prepared, and the good people are doing by choosing it. But you know all this - you’re already doing it!

Photo of Kaitlin Mogentale

brilliant! Thanks Lotta. 

Photo of Jen

CommonWealth Kitchen!

Photo of Jen

Love it! We're trying to do something similar here in Boston-- working with farmers to take surplus and make pickles, sauces, relish, etc. in jars for them to sell, and then taking whatever else might be left and making some sort of "rescue relish" etc. 

Photo of Lotta

Sounds great Jen, what's your organisation called?