In Europe, grocery stores are hosting ‘happy hours’ to fight food waste

European supermarkets are hosting happy hours to sell nearly spoiled food in an effort to take a bite out of the world’s $680B food waste problem.


September 10, 2019

Food waste is a rotten problem: About ⅓ of the food that’s meant for human mouths ends up in the global trash heap. That means 1.3B tons of food go to waste each year (that’s $680B worth), yet, still, 1 in 10 people across the world are undernourished.

But, as The New York Times reports, businesses across the globe are testing out new systems to improve the efficiency of food distribution — and they just might be weird enough to work.

Happy hour isn’t just for bars anymore

In Finland, a grocery chain called S-market is testing out what it calls “happy hours.” Every night at 9 pm, the chain reduces the prices of products that are about to spoil to 60% off at all of its 900 stores.

Other grocers across Europe have taken similar steps to reduce food waste: REMA 1000, the largest grocery chain in Denmark, has eliminated in-store bulk discounts to stop people from buying more than they need.

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Now it’s America’s turn

In the US of A — where Costco’s bulk discounts inspire a civic religion whose disciples wear their Kirkland Signature badges of honor with fervent pride — cutting down on food-related excess has proven even more difficult.

A nonprofit investigation last year gave 9 out of 10 American supermarkets a grade of C or lower on food waste management.

US grocery chains have been less proactive than their European peers when it comes to managing food waste. But, on the other side of the grocery aisle, a number of startups have launched to tackle food waste from other angles… 

And venture capitalists are eager to fund these waste warriors

In just the first 10 months of last year, VCs invested $125m in food waste-fighting startups. Here are some with fresh funding:

  • Apeel Sciences has raised $110m to develop plant-based artificial peels that extend the shelf lives of vegetables
  • Imperfect Produce has raised $47.1m to deliver “ugly” produce directly from farmers to consumers
  • Full Harvest has raised $11.5m to build a business-to-business market for surplus produce
  • Spoiler Alert has raised $2.7m to create software that helps businesses manage unsold food inventory

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