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‘Ugly’ food to get second chance in Sweden

In an attempt to reduce food waste, several Swedish retailers have decided to sell "ugly" fruit and vegetables as well as food that is approaching its expiry date.

'Ugly' food to get second chance in Sweden
Ugly carrots will be sold cheaply at the participating Coop supermarkets. Photo: Epukas via Wikimedia Commons

In other parts of Europe, “ugly” fruit and vegetables have been sold in regular stores for a few years.

“The giant French food chain Intermarche had a great campaign for ugly food a year and a half ago,” said Louise Ungerth, director of the Stockholm Coop.

“And when I was in London in 2014 many stores had ugly fruit and vegetables in their basic range. For example misshapen carrots and potatoes with discoloured skin. The ugly potatoes were marketed as excellent for mashed potatoes,” Ungerth told the Swedish TT news agency.

According to Coop, 15 to 30 percent of fruit and vegetables are discarded before they reach shops, simply because of their appearance.

Some of this “ugly” stock will soon be sold for a reduced price in selected Swedish Coop stores.

This autumn will also see a new discount food store open, as Axfood launches a store in Stockholm in cooperation with the Stockholm Stadsmission (Stockholm City Mission).

There, old food, near its expiry date, will be sold. The prices will be up to 70 percent lower, but shoppers will need a special membership card in order to shop there, to prove that they have a higher need than others for discounted products.

According to Åsa Domeij, Head of Environmental and Social Responsibility at Axfood, “reducing food waste is an important part of our environmental and sustainability work. That we can also be involved in helping to make a social contribution is of course even better.”
 
Coca Cola Sweden, Nestle Sweden and Vinnova are among the other big corporate names involved in the new initiative.
 
The location of the new store is still being decided.

The move follows other similar 'social supermarkets' elsewhere in Europe including in Germany, Finland and France, the latter of which launched its first store of this kind some 15 years ago.

Coop's Louise Ungerth has a theory about why it has taken until now in Sweden to recognise that food is being wasted.

“In Sweden we are so used to the welfare state. Many seniors and families are struggling to keep up appearances, but they might be ashamed to buy cheap food.”

Coop’s main competitor, Ica, has no similar plans to sell ugly food or open discount stores at present.

“We donate old food to the City Mission,” said Ica press officer Ola Fernvall.

“And as for ugly fruit and vegetables the volumes are too small. In any case, these are still wanted by the food processing industry and restaurants,” she said.

While Sweden remains one of the most equal countries in the world, it has experienced a rapid surge of income inequality since the 1990s.
 
According to the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), the average income of the top 10 percent of earners in the Nordic nation was 6.3 times higher than that of the bottom 10 percent in 2012. This was up from a ratio of around 5.75 to 1 in the 2007 and a ratio of around 4 to 1 during much of the 1990s.
 

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FOOD & DRINK

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Do you know your biskvi from your bakelse? Your chokladboll from your kanelbulle? Here's a guide guaranteed to get your mouth watering.

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Kanelbulle

The most famous of all Swedish cakes outside Sweden, the classic kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) is the symbol of Sweden abroad, no doubt helped by the fact that Swedish furniture giants IKEA stock frozen buns in their food stores for customers to bake off at home.

Forget American tear-apart cinnamon rolls baked in a pan and slathered with cream cheese frosting: a classic Swedish cinnamon bun is baked individually using a yeasted dough spread with cinnamon sugar and butter. The dough is then rolled up, sliced into strips which are then stretched out and knotted into buns, baked, glazed with sugar syrup and sprinkled with pearl sugar.

Home-made varieties skip the stretching and knotting step, rolling the cinnamon-sprinkled dough into a spiral instead which, although less traditional, tastes just as good.

Kanelbullar in Sweden often include a small amount of Sweden’s favourite spice: cardamom. If you’re a fan of cardamom, try ordering the kanelbulle‘s even more Swedish cousin, the kardemummabulle or cardamom bun, which skips the cinnamon entirely and goes all-out on cardamom instead.

Sweden celebrates cinnamon bun day (kanelbullens dag) on October 4th.

Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/imagebank.sweden.se

Chokladboll

A great option if you want a smaller cake for your fika, the chokladboll or ‘chocolate ball’ is a perfect accompaniment to coffee – some recipes even call for mixing cold coffee into the batter.

They aren’t baked and are relatively easy to make, meaning they are a popular choice for parents (or grandparents) wanting to involve children in the cake-making process.

Chokladbollar are a simple mix of sugar, oats, melted butter and cocoa powder, with the optional addition of vanilla or coffee, or occasionally rum extract. They are rolled into balls which are then rolled in desiccated coconut (or occasionally pearl sugar), and placed in the fridge to become more solid.

Some bakeries or cafés also offer dadelbollar or rawbollar/råbollar (date or raw balls), a vegan alternative made from dried dates and nuts blended together with cocoa powder.

Chocolate ball day (chokladbollens dag) falls on May 11th.

Photo: Magnus Carlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Prinsesstårta

The lime-green prinsesstårta or ‘princess cake’ may look like a modern invention with it’s brightly-coloured marzipan covering, but it has been around since the beginning of the 1900s, and is named after three Swedish princesses, Margareta, Märta and Astrid, who were supposedly especially fond of the cake.

The cake consists of a sponge bottom spread with jam, crème pâtissière and a dome of whipped cream, covered in green marzipan and some sort of decoration, often a marzipan rose.

Prinsesstårtor can also be served in individual portions, small slices of a log which are then referred to as a prinsessbakelse.

Although the cakes are popular all year round, in the Swedish region of Småland, prinsesstårta is eaten on the first Thursday in March, due to this being the unofficial national day of the Småland region (as the phrase första torsdagen i mars is pronounced fössta tossdan i mass in the Småland dialect).

Since 2004, the Association of Swedish Bakers and Confectioners has designated the last week of September as prinsesstårtans vecka (Princess cake day).

Photo: Sinikka Halme, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.

Budapestbakelse

Belonging to the more traditional cakes, a Budapestbakelse or “Budapest slice” is a type of rulltårta or “roll cake” similar to a Swiss roll, consisting of a light and crispy cake made from whipped egg whites, sugar and hazelnut, filled with whipped cream and fruit, often chopped conserved peaches, nectarines or mandarines, and rolled into a log.

The log is then sliced into individual portions and drizzled with chocolate, then often topped with whipped cream and a slice of fruit. 

Despite its name, the Budapest slice has nothing to do with the city of Budapest – it was supposedly invented by baker Ingvar Strid in 1926 and received the name due to Strid’s love for the Hungarian capital.

Of course, the Budapestbakelse also has its own day – May 1st.

Kanelbullar (left), chokladbollar (centre) and biskvier (right). Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se

Biskvi

Another smaller cake, a biskvi (pronounced like the French biscuit), consists of an almond biscuit base, covered in buttercream (usually chocolate flavoured), and dark chocolate.

Different variants of biskvier exist, such as a Sarah Bernhardt, named after the French actress of the same name, which has chocolate truffle instead of buttercream.

You might also spot biskvier with white chocolate, often with a hallon (raspberry) or citron (lemon) filling, or even saffransbiskvier around Christmastime.

Chokladbiskviens dag is celebrated on November 11th.

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