Growing Ideas: The fruit spread that creates jobs from food waste

Yespers has an idea worth spreading

Fruit spreads and granolas that combat food waste and improve living conditions? “Yes we can!” says Yespers, a Dutch company envisioning ways to create a socially and environmentally just food system.

“My wife always makes a smoothie in the morning, but that doesn’t sustain me until lunchtime,” says Stefan Baecke. “So I developed a smoothie that can be eaten on a slice of bread.”

So began Yespers fruit spreads and granolas, a business Baecke hatched at the end of 2014. Although he has plenty of product ideas on the back burner, Baecke is currently focused on finding more partners who want to use his waste-free ingredients.

He spoke with us about how producing simple breakfast foods in developing regions can strengthen the food chain and create positive social and economic change.

What is Yespers?

We have three types of fruit spread and three types of granola. What’s important to me is the link between production and its impact on humans and the environment. Our aim is to connect with farmers and cooperatives – one step at a time and one ingredient at a time. For example, we work with a party in Ecuador who processes rejected bananas into puree. In turn, we use that banana puree in our spreads.

“We want to convert food waste into income and jobs”

- Stefan Baecke, Yespers

What problem does it solve?

We want to convert food waste into income and jobs. Take those rejected bananas, for instance. By using them in our products, we prevent them ending up as rubbish. The farmer also benefits because he can earn money from a product that was initially rejected. Finally, by using bananas in puree we can create employment opportunities in the processing industry.

The greater the volume, the greater our impact. That’s why we not only import banana puree for our fruit spread, but we also engage other parties who want to process puree. So that same banana puree can now also be found in the Fair Trade banana yoghurt on sale at Plus supermarkets.

Yespers processes nuts locally in West Africa, where they are grown – that saves a considerable journey from processing facilities in Asia.

What developments do you have in store?

We choose our ingredients based on where we can create the biggest impact. After bananas that is cashew nuts. These grow in West Africa, one of the poorest regions of the continent. Until now, cashews were shipped to Vietnam or India to be peeled and were only then transported on to Europe. We help process cashews locally and the nuts are now imported directly from Burkina Faso.

We also look at options to generate sustainable energy by using residual flows from cashews and mangos, another local product.

”It’s not the lowest price but the best price that counts”

- Stefan Baecke, Yespers

What is your biggest challenge?

If you want to make a social impact, it’s not the lowest price in euros that counts. It’s about the best price which includes social costs. It’s hard to convince parties of that. But it gets easier as more businesses start taking a responsibility.

Cooperation is vital to solve social issues. The current food system actually maintains poverty, so we have to build a sustainable food chain that will still work in thirty years’ time. If you want to be a part of the solution, there is no such thing as competition.

This interview is part of the Growing Ideas series, in which we take a look at the future of food and agriculture and offer a platform to innovative companies in these sectors.