A London-based catering business is turning surplus artisan produce into high-quality, affordable meals
This article has been created by Positive News and supported by Elysia Catering
Think of projects that are putting waste food to good use and likely to spring to mind are all-purpose, easily adaptable dishes like veg soups and simple curries. But it’s not just wonky veg that gets wasted. Although the vast majority of the UK’s 200,000 tonnes of retail sector food waste comes from supermarkets, it’s a problem that impacts independent artisan food suppliers too.
The scale may be small (estimated at less than one per cent of the UK’s food waste total), but the quality from these suppliers is high. Everything from specialist cheeses to organic granola, and handmade crispbreads to sought-after coffee beans, get chucked out every day in the current food system.
This is where French entrepreneur Sophie André comes in. In 2016 she moved to London and began by setting up a business delivering artisan food across the city.
It’s a result of the handmade process – there are always some products that will not turn out perfect
“Food delivery seems to be a big thing here,” she says. “So I started delivering products by bicycle. Talking with local producers I learned that a small part of the production is sometimes wasted due to the size or shape, but the quality of the products remains unchanged.
“For instance, I met with Hedie – the founder of the organic granola brand Husk & Honey. She explained to me that some batches may be a little too brown or contain an additional spoonful of honey compared to the regular one, so she would not sell it to the cafes she is working with. It was clear to me that I could do something about this and put it to good use.”
And so, André’s catering business, Elysia, was born.
Unlike many food waste projects that have sprung up in recent years, including the likes of The Real Junk Food Project, Gleaning Network and The People’s Fridge, the idea is not simply to redistribute waste food, but to provide a high-quality product. Elysia offers breakfasts and canapes specifically aimed at business meetings and events.
Once sourced, Elysia uses the waste products to create “simple, natural, straightforward” meals. Perhaps unlike other waste food, the supply is regular. “Suppliers will always have a certain amount of surplus.” So the menus remain regular too – something that André believes benefits both her business and the customer.
“In terms of supply, there’s quite a wide range of food that is available because there will always be broken crispbreads for example – it’s a handmade product, so there’s always a small amount that have imperfections or that didn’t reach the standard.”
The company uses both surplus products such as sourdough bread, artisan croissants and organic granola, as well as products made from waste food such as flavoured hummus and chutneys – transformed from ‘wonky veg’. As a result, Elysia has rescued an estimated four tonnes of artisan food from going to landfill since business began in 2016, and has sold meals to more than 7,000 people.
But it’s not about profit. A social enterprise, Elysia not only works to cut the UK’s food waste (which is the highest rate in Europe), uses…
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