Picture this: you’re strolling along one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighbourhood. You enter a supermarket called SirPlus. Towering shelves of fresh produce line the walls. You pick up a few things and head to the cash register, where you pay much less than you would at your typical supermarket chain. So, what’s the catch?
Congratulations: you managed to intercept your dinner just before it was about to head into a dumpster. This is the concept behind SirPlus: the store buys supermarkets’ surplus food which otherwise would have been thrown out, and sells it at a steep discount — between 30 and 70 percent off its normal price.
Raphael Fellmer is one of the three friends — alongside Martin Schott and Alexander Piutti — who founded SirPlus via a 100,000 euro crowd-funding campaign and a sizable loan from an angel investor. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” says Fellmer. “The food we save normally would cost the company money to dispose of, so we save them the disposal costs,” he says. “It’s also an ethical decision for them to say, ‘even if we cannot sell it, it’s still edible, and we want to be sure it’s eaten.’”
SirPlus, he says, is a natural extension of the food sharing movement. The grassroots movement connects individual volunteers with small-scale businesses which have extra food they need to get rid of. “Food sharing was kind of a niche thing for people who have time to go to supermarkets and sort out the bad food, take the good food and share it,” he says. “Now we want to make food sharing mainstream. We give everybody— consumers, businesses, suppliers — the chance to work together to reduce food waste.”
One of SirPlus’ biggest partners is METRO, Germany’s biggest retailer. “We see SirPlus more as a complementary business serving a different customer group with different demands than we do,” says Guido Mischok, a regional manager at METRO. “The reduction of food waste along the value chain is one of our corporate goals… our target is to halve food waste in our own operations by 2025.”