While walking down the grocery aisle of your favorite store you’ve likely studied labels and dates, noting the shelf life of the items you put in your cart. But, what if all the items in your store were past their labeled prime?
Oslo’s unique Best Før supermarket looks much like other Norwegian grocers, except all of the items lining its shelves are beyond their sell by dates and signage within the store alerts shoppers to the advanced age of the products. The prices of the items reflect their age, often discounted roughly 50 to 75 percent from comparable merchandise in traditional stores. Meant to address the challenging problem of food waste, the supermarket is the latest measure conceived in response to Norway’s ambitious goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.
“Most supermarkets won’t buy products that are within 10 days or so of their expiry date – it often has to be wasted,” says Naeeh Ahmed, operations manager of Best Før to 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.’”
Eight years ago the Norway’s food industry began compiling data on the country’s food waste. They found that discarded food accounted for a surprising amount of greenhouse gas in Norway, estimated at 978,000 tons—the equivalent of roughly a quarter of the country’s cars. In response the Norwegian food industry modified food labels to feature “best before” recommendations, adapted containers with smaller portions and launched a consumer education campaign about the household costs of food waste.
Innovative solutions to the food waste problem can be found in more places than Best Før, for instance, the platform bestfør.no tracks digital records of sell by dates, detecting items in need of price reduction or donation to charities in need. Then there’s the app, Foodlist, which relies on user submitted photos of grocery products reaching the end of their shelf life and where to find them. Company SNÅL frukt & grøn is another recent addition which sells discounted fruits, vegetables and eggs that are misshapen or uniquely hued.