Strawberries that are too big for the supermarket end up on the compost heap. This kind of food waste shocks Mineke Rezelman. Now, in her Amsterdam juice bar, Rezelman and her brother squeeze market rejects into desirable drinks.
Rezelman came up with the idea to do something with discarded produce after observing wasted food all over the place. “I’d walk around Amsterdam’s Albert Cuyp market and see how much they threw away at the end of the day – often stuff in perfect condition,” she says.
Inspired by other initiatives that fight food waste, she founded Jacob’s Juice bar with her brother Jan. “When this building in De Pijp [a trendy Amsterdam neighborhood] became available, everything – the concept and all the possibilities – fell into place,” she recalls.
Rezelman spoke with us about opening her business, fighting food waste, and the importance of supporting other start-ups.
What is Jacob’s Juice?
It’s a juice bar where everything is made from ‘waste.’ That doesn’t mean rubbish: often, it means perfect produce that hasn’t been properly packaged or is just the wrong size.
It might be a lemon that isn’t yellow enough. Or single bananas, because supermarkets think customers only buy bunches. Other examples include a net of oranges containing a single bad one, or a pack of peppers that doesn’t include three different colors – all of these fall under the category of ‘waste.’
We use these rejects to make juice in glass bottles and pickled vegetables in jars. We don’t use plastic, so no plastic straws. And customers who return their bottles receive a discount on the refill.
“Waste doesn’t mean rubbish”- Mineke Rezelman, Jacob’s Juice
What problem are you solving?
A third of our food is wasted, while the raw materials needed for production are becoming scarcer. In my work I’d see growers who told me about strawberries being too big for the supermarket, and so ending up on the compost heap.
I was inspired by the Verspillingsfabriek (The Waste Factory), where they make soup from rejected vegetables, among other things. In Amsterdam though, there didn’t seem to be so many food waste initiatives. In particular, there was no juice bar making juices from rejects. Together with my brother, who was working in the hospitality industry, I decided to go for it.
Twice a week, we get fruit and vegetable deliveries from our various partners. We inventory what’s there and decide which juices to make. We have a number of basic juice recipes, because we can anticipate what will be wasted.
All our juices are slow pressed, which means we don’t heat them. We squeeze everything cold, so that the vitamins and minerals remain intact. In addition, we extract all the moisture this way, leaving only the pulp, so you waste as little as possible.
“You really have to wait and see what the customer wants”- Mineke Rezelman, Jacob’s Juice
What other developments are in the cards?
We’re going to expand our range with granola and soup, a handy product for using up discards. We’re also increasing our focus on company lunches and large catering jobs. For example, we delivered 300 juices to the opening of Amsterdam’s new metro line.
What tips can you give to other entrepreneurs?
I’ve learned that you don’t know everything. I thought that, after all the negative publicity about fruit juices and the amount of sugar they contain, we’d only be able to sell vegetable juices. But we sell a lot of our orange, mango and strawberry juices. So you really have to wait and see what the customer wants.
In addition, social media, especially Instagram and LinkedIn, really helped us. I thought we’d have to do it alone, but we get a lot of support from other companies that are also fighting food waste. We don’t work against each other; we cooperate. Together, all of us small start-ups can make a big difference.
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 the sector.