Being truly caring is at the very centre of everything we do at Nøie. And luckily, we’re not the only ones with such approach: As part of our Truly Caring mini-series, we recently met with two inspirational entrepreneurs. They told a story on body ideals within fruit and vegetables, food waste and truly caring for the planet.
I make my way to the parking area in front of EAT GRIM’s headquarters in Copenhagen and the sight of a massive white industrial building meets my eyes. Furniture made out of pallets and multiple flower bowls tells the story of how this area (when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic) is full of people coming in and out from the street.
As I walk across the courtyard, I bump into Petra Kaukua, co-founder and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of EAT GRIM. Together, we enter their headquarters and are greeted by Carolin Schiemer, co-founder and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of EAT GRIM.
Carolin and Petra get comfortable in a black leather sofa inside the headquarter’s canteen area, which is encircled by a major Monstera Deliciosa plant on the left and my camera gear on the right. I’ve already been given the grand tour of the place and offered a cup of coffee. I never say no to coffee.
“I think that truly caring for the environment is really about changing the status quo and challenging the way things are done,” Carolin states.
And that’s definitely something Petra and Carolin have accomplished with their startup EAT GRIM.
Now, it wasn’t like the two co-founders woke up an early Tuesday morning thinking: “Let’s go sell some ugly fruits and veggies.” Rather, the idea of doing so emerged from a school project Petra and Carolin did when they were studying Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
“We chose food waste as a course topic in school. So, we went to visit some farmers to observe how food waste is dealt with at that level of the food chain,” Petra says.
At the farms, the two co-founders witnessed firsthand how big of an issue food waste really is. Big piles of perfectly edible fruits and vegetables destined for the trash can. All because of their looks.That became the kick start of EAT GRIM.
Ugly, uglier, ugliest
“We decided to make food boxes consisting of the excess fruit and vegetables that would have ended up as landfill. It’s really about eating smarter and not about producing more,” Carolin says.
But why even produce this amount of fruits and greens in the first place if all it does is end up as landfill? The answer to this is quite simple: They don’t have the right “looks” to be sold in the supermarket. That’s right. It’s a thing - even fruits and vegetables have body ideals.
I place my coffee mug on the table with a ceramic *clink*. We exit the building altogether and head towards the packing room, where several EAT GRIM employees are working tirelessly with packing “ugly” fruits and vegetables in boxes.
It’s Tuesday which means fresh supplies. Today’s delivery contains both cabbage, kiwis and avocados. And I can’t help but notice how there are loads of a specific vegetable looking like a fusion of cabbage and broccoli. Common to all the excess food present is that they’re not suitable for being sold in the usual way.
“Maybe they’re too big or too small. There might be some color variations or some little scratches on the surface, which is why this product doesn't end up in the supermarket,” Petra explains.
“Look at this red cabbage. It’s perfectly fine, but simply just too small,” she continues while holding a cute little red cabbage in her right hand and pointing at a slightly bigger one with her left.
The mass production of fruits and greens also comes from weather issues and changes in demand.
“It’s a huge global problem: Every third of all fruits and vegetables ends up being disregarded,” Petra states.
“Is this even ugly?”
To Petra and Carolin, this issue is more than just about the looks.
“We’d like to start a global movement where every shape, size and colour is welcome in people and food alike,” Carolin says.
And the rather weird, sometimes close to unachievable, standards for e.g. pepper fruits having the exact right ‘dark-red-not-too-red-nor-green-and-especially-not-yellow’ colour and the exact right bend (you know the ‘not-too-much-of-a-bend-so-it’s-more-of-a-curve’) is often a surprise to EAT GRIM’s customers.
“People often ask us: ‘This produce looks so normal. What’s wrong with it? Is this even ugly?’” Petra says.
She stresses how these reactions confirm that the current standards are simply too strict.
“The problem we’re trying to solve is based on the assumption that things should look exactly alike - but that’s just not reality,” Caroline concludes.