Collaboration etepetete x Esbit
Have you ever heard of etepetete? Two-legged carrots, crooked cucumbers or small apples – you can find them all in their organic food boxes, available in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The startup works with organic fruits and vegetables that wouldn’t make it into supermarkets because they don’t meet the visual standards. Since its inception, they have already saved over 15 million kilos of food.
We caught up with the etepetete team and gained some exciting insights into the company and its mission. What is the supply chain like? What happens to the fruits and vegetables that are no longer fit for shipping? And what was the most crooked vegetable to leave etepetete’s warehouse? You’ll find it all in the interview below.
Esbit: We are concerned about food rescue: etepetete tackles the problem at an early stage in the food chain and aims to contribute to reducing unnecessary waste of fruit, vegetables and other food. How does the concept of the etepetete boxes work?
etepetete: In Germany, 59% of food waste comes from private households. The numbers are lower in primary production and trade, but about 90% of the waste in these areas is avoidable. That’s where etepetete comes in, at the beginning of the value chain, and contributes to the fight against food waste. We offer 9 different vegetable boxes with organic fruits and vegetables that do not meet the standard criteria and would not be sold in supermarkets. These can be things like cucumbers that are too small or carrots with two legs.
Over the past eight years, we have developed a broad network of suppliers, including farmers, cooperatives and retailers, from whom we source our products. Through a flexible subscription model, we send the boxes directly to customers’ doorsteps in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
We also want to provide information about food rescue and sustainable food consumption. On our website, we offer not only boxes, but also many free tips and tricks on how to make better use of food. This includes advice on proper storage and recipe ideas.
Esbit: How many farmers are you currently working with, and what is important to you about working with them?
etepetete: We currently work with about 90 farmers. It is important for us that the producers understand our mission and see us as a helpful second pillar. Both sides should benefit from the cooperation. We also value long-term and regular partnerships.
Expanding our network is an ongoing process, and our needs have changed over the years. Initially, etepetete was created from a regional perspective. There was only one box, and the farmers in the Munich area were approached, and whatever they had went into the box. Now, after eight years, we offer 9 boxes in different sizes, have already saved over 15 million kilograms of food from being wasted, and source the contents mostly from Europe, with a few exceptions. Trust and quality are essential in a project like this.
Esbit: How does the supply chain for etepetete boxes differ from the fruit and vegetables we can buy in supermarkets?
etepetete: The organic fruits and vegetables in our boxes don’t meet the standard criteria – they can be lopsided, discolored, bigger or smaller. So the only difference between them and supermarket produce is their appearance. Freshness and quality are also important criteria for the contents of our boxes. We buy the products as directly as possible from the producers. The goods do not go through sorting warehouses or redistribution centers, which allows us to keep the supply chain short. We also prioritize the use of plastic-free packaging. Shipping to subscribers is also carbon neutral.
Esbit: What happens to overripe or unsuitable fruits and vegetables that cannot be shipped?
etepetete: Sometimes we come across fruits and vegetables that are still edible but not transportable, for example if they are overripe. These items do not end up in our boxes. Most of it goes to local food banks, the German Red Cross, and a few other organizations we work with. We also have a video on our YouTube channel for those who want to learn more. As a last resort, we work with a livestock farmer who can use inedible organic fruits and vegetables as animal feed.
Esbit: With etepetete boxes, your customers receive themed boxes that can vary slightly in content each time. That’s a great opportunity to try new kinds of fruits and vegetables, isn’t it?
etepetete: That’s true. However, we want our customers to have an idea of what they will get in the box. That’s why we have expanded our range of boxes. Instead of the original 4 boxes, we now offer 9 themed boxes with descriptions that clearly indicate the contents.
We are also working on making the boxes customizable. For example, customers can cancel fruits and vegetables they don’t like. This is important for customer satisfaction. This should be possible with the planned digitalization of the packaging process.
Esbit: What was the most unusually crooked vegetable you’ve come across in your warehouse?
etepetete: Carrots are the most artistic of all vegetables. You could fill entire exhibitions with the shapes carrots can take – carrots with two legs, carrots hugging each other. Once we found one in our warehouse that looked like a woman’s body with crossed legs.
Esbit: We have one last question for you: For consumers, food rescue doesn’t end at the grocery store. It’s also about using food sustainably at home. What is a tip that you personally use in your everyday life?
etepetete: There are several things. But it often starts with proper storage. For example, bananas and apples should be stored separately, and tomatoes should not be kept in the refrigerator. For more tips on how to store fruits and vegetables properly, check out our blog.
Another way to avoid food waste is to use as much of the plant as possible. Many, especially organic varieties, don’t need to be peeled. This is in part because some of the most important nutrients are usually found right under the skin. For example, radish greens make a delicious pesto, and onion skins and other scraps can be used to make vegetable broth.
Occasionally play the fridge police and see what needs to be used first. It may also be worth freezing, canning, or drying some items to extend their shelf life.
Avoid impulse purchases and don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. Don’t throw out everything that has expired. Instead, trust your senses. That means opening, smelling, tasting, and checking to see if it’s still edible. However, be careful with highly perishable foods such as fish or meat. Don’t take any chances and check the expiration date.
Esbit: Thanks for the interesting interview and the insights!
Sustainable food consumption is also very important to us. With our reusable containers in the form of thermos flasks and bottles, you can store food and drinks on the go. For example, you can take leftovers for lunch the next day. Plus, you avoid disposable packaging. For more information on our thermos line, click here.
To further raise awareness of food rescue and promote conscious food handling, we will be delving deeper into these topics in the coming weeks. Together with etepetete, we will be sharing more tips, recipes and ideas on how you can incorporate conscious food consumption into your everyday life and leisure activities, anytime, anywhere.