The founder of the Berlin-based Sirplus founder Raphael Fellmer is aiming to give edible food that has been discarded based on visual faults, overproduction or the best-before date a second chance and is eyeing the market in Hamburg on the heels of a successful crowdfunding campaign. This comes against the backdrop of mounting waste. More than 18 million tons of food, of which 10 million tons could be avoided, end up as waste every year in Germany, according to a study by the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF).
The topic of food waste is currently on everyone’s lips. Yet, Fellmer has been involved in the sector for around ten years and went entirely without money for five and a half years to highlight the waste of resources before launching Sirplus in 2016. During that abstention, he had neither income nor expenditure. He and his family lived on discarded food and wore second-hand clothes donated by friends and relatives. In 2017, Fellmer and Martin Schott opened the first Food Outlet store in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Meanwhile, the duo has opened three stores in the German capital and employ 85 people. Sirplus buys up out of date food from wholesalers, producers and farmers. The food saved in this way ranges from organic foodstuffs, dairy products, meat, baked goods, fruit and vegetables to cosmetics and go on back on sale at up to 70 per cent lower prices and into circulation in the Food Outlets and via the online shop.
Bringing franchise to other cities including Hamburg
Last year, the start-up scooped the 2018 Bundespreis 'Zu gut für die Tonne’ (literally ‘Too good for the bin’, awarded by the Germany Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Yet, Fellmer, 36, is aiming even higher. “Our vision is to ensure that everyone on Earth has enough to eat. We want all the food produced to be eaten.” In early August, Sirplus raised over EUR 111,111 in a crowdfunding campaign. The start-up now hopes to bring its franchise to other cities and has received over 100 enquiries from Hamburg alone, Fellmer told Hamburg News in an interview. “We will hold initial talks towards the end of the year and look around for a suitable property location,” he added.
No competition with non-profit organizations
The sale of food that has passed the best before date is legal in Germany as the indicated date is akin to the manufacturer’s guarantee of quality, according to Consumer Affairs. Sirplus is not rivalling non-profit organisations such as Hamburger Tafel e.V. or food bank, Fellmer stressed. “The food banks always take priority,” he noted. Some establishments do not accept food that has passed the best before date or simply do not have the means to put the surplus food back into circulation. This is exactly the niche eyed by Sirplus.
Given this backdrop, Hamburg will motion the Bundesrat to urge the German government to initiate a law to avoid food waste, said Cornelia Prüfer-Storcks, Senator for Consumer Protection, during a visit to the food bank (Hamburger Tafel) in early August. Measures in other European countries show that a legal obligation goes hand in hand with increased donations to aid organisations. A law in effect since 2016 in France, for instance, obliges large French supermarkets to draw up agreements on food donations with non-profit organisations rather than disposing of edible food.