27th February 2024

Reducing food waste by accepting imperfections

Julia drew on her professional experience in environmental education and the development of sustainable and innovative projects to co-create the on.perfekt cooperative. The main aim is to create distribution channels for less-than-perfect food in order to raise awareness of food waste. Happy reading!

Meet Julia

My name is Julia Gregor. At the start of my career, I worked on rural development projects. As a committed social entrepreneur, I have been involved in projects relating to sustainability and social innovation in Luxembourg over the years. My professional experience in environmental education, regional social project development – with the LEADER project, among others – and my understanding of socio-cultural and socio-economic needs in Luxembourg were a great help when setting up our cooperative.

Collaboration between individuals, organisations and businesses has always been important to me. Together, we can achieve many great things, and this belief inspired me to co-found on.perfekt in 2020.

The idea of creating a business

It all began in 2020 – we were with friends, discussing an article we had read. According to the article by the WWF, 30% of vegetables are rejected for cosmetic reasons before leaving the field. We had already discussed food waste on many occasions, and while we were fully aware that we waste too much food, the extent was shocking. We wondered what the situation was in our country.

What happens to wonky carrots?

What happens to the vegetables that do not meet cosmetic standards or have small defects?

Is food past its use-by date redistributed or thrown away?

We met with producers and supermarkets to discuss these issues and help them find solutions.

And the idea was born. We wanted to open a grocery store selling rejected products, such as wonky carrots, too small potatoes, food past its use-by date and other misshapen items.

The stages of business creation

The creation of our on.perfekt grocery store

Step by step. That’s how we created on.perfekt. We developed our idea without dwelling too much on the details. It was important for us to reach out to potential customers and test our idea from the start.

We were able to do this thanks to the generous support of Majerus-Parmentier, which allowed us to set up sales areas in its premises to see whether our idea would work. At first, we just invited our friends and family to come and buy vegetables once a month, but word spread fast and more and more people came to visit our pop-up markets. We realised that our concept had been accepted. Like us, our customers were shocked at the level of waste in the food industry and were willing to buy misshapen vegetables.

The first successes and the idea of creating a social enterprise

From then on, many people promoted and supported our idea. We gradually gained more customers, our idea became more widely known and we decided it was time to transform our project into a business. From the outset, it was clear it would be a cooperative, based on the OUNI model.

But we also wanted to set up a social enterprise. We made this decision very quickly – I had the knowledge thanks to my previous experience and as a member of the ULESS board of directors. Thanks to the Nyuko programme, we were able to rework and finalise our business plan.

A crowdfunding campaign

The launch of a crowdfunding campaign in early 2022 to raise the initial capital for our grocery store was a decisive moment.

We chose this solution because we also wanted to prove that a partnership can accomplish and change many things. Although it took us nearly a year of preparation and despite a few sleepless nights during the crowdfunding phase, it was an incredible experience.

Our goal was to raise EUR 95.000, but we had raised more than EUR 106.000 when we closed the campaign. We had all we needed to create Luxembourg’s first on.perfekt grocery store, which opened in September 2022.

The development of our business

On.perfekt now offers several solutions to reduce food waste.

We sell fruit and vegetables in our grocery store in Marnach, which is open 4 days a week. The store also sells dairy products, tea and other food items with imperfections that are considered to be unsellable by the food industry for various reasons.

Our subscription-based local seasonal veggie boxes, which we deliver throughout Luxembourg, are another very important sales channel, as they allow us to give more fruit and vegetables a second chance.

As well as reducing food waste, on.perfekt aspires to raise awareness of surplus food. We organise workshops on this subject for primary and high schools and companies.  Our aim is to shed light on this topic by raising awareness.

Julia’s advice for future entrepreneurs

  • Be pragmatic: test your idea and get feedback from potential customers as soon as possible.

  • Get help: no-one can do everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for support and advice.

Nyuko has signed a partnership with Spuerkeess, in order to foster entrepreneurial spirit and strengthening the bank's position with company founders from the start of their businesses. More info in our article: https://www.spuerkeess.lu/en/blog/experts-corner/nyuko-fostering-entrepreneurial-spirit/.