Every year, over 700,000 tons of food are wasted in Denmark, which is why NGO DanChurchAid opened up a grocery store earlier this year selling expired — but safe-to-consume — foods for discounted rates in Copenhagen. The market, called Wefood, is doing so well that a second store has opened its doors for environmentally conscious shoppers.
The concept is simple: Retailers (e.g., local supermarket chains, import and export companies, and producers) donate products, which are picked up by Wefood's volunteer staff. The items consist of goods that have passed the "best before" date, have been damaged in packing or labeled incorrectly, or have been accidentally produced at a larger scale than needed. The products are then sold at Wefood at a 30 to 50 percent markdown.
"We look, we smell, we feel the product and see if it's still consumable," project leader Bassel Hmeidan told The Guardian.
Since all the foods are donated, there is no consistency on what shoppers can find and the inventory varies from day to day. That said, the benefits of the market are threefold: there is less food waste, shoppers on a budget can score a great deal, and all profits from Wefood go to charity.
"WeFood is the first supermarket of its kind in Denmark and perhaps even in the world," said project spokesperson Per Bjerre at the time of the first store's launch, in a statement. "We are not just reaching out to low-income shoppers, but trying to appeal to anyone concerned about the amount of food waste produced in our society."
It is legal to sell expired food in Denmark, so long as there is no danger in eating it and it is clearly advertised that the food has passed expiration. Food expiration laws vary in other countries, but the problem exists on a global scale, as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates more than 1.4 billion tons of food are wasted annually, with Europe and North America leading the per-capita waste at 210 to 255 pounds a year per consumer.