Good Food for Cities

Robin Food transforms food surpluses into healthy products for vulnerable families

March 3, 2023

The Robin Food project goes against food waste in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain by transforming food leftovers into valuable products. Companies and organisations work together to provide vulnerable groups with the products.

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Transforming food leftovers into valuable products and making them accessible for vulnerable groups and offering a viable business to the companies that produce them.

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From 2020


Social enterprise enVie transforms surplus vegetable into soup.

Throughout the year, the agricultural sector is confronted with temporary production surpluses, due to seasonal fluctuations. When these surpluses enter the regular market, they can have disruptive impact by causing big price drops. Therefore, it’s better to create alternative channels for these surpluses, besides the regular market. Additionally when the prices become too low, some auctions do decide to take the overproduction out of the regular market.

The overproduction can then be used as animal feed or for composting, but it is preferable to use them for alternative markets for human consumption, e.g. processing into soups and distributing them for free to people who live in poverty.

On top of that, COVID-19 has a huge impact on the supply and demand side of the food sector:

  • Demand of some products had dramatically decreased, e.g. potatoes, asparagus.
  • International trade of agricultural products seriously declined.
  • Some processing and catering companies - also young start-ups - have lost part of their sales and had to reduce or stop production, resulting in technical unemployment for their staff.
  • Vulnerable groups in society have been gravely affected. They already had limited access to healthy food, but the economic fallout of COVID-19 significantly increased the number of vulnerable families.

Our strategies

  • New products based on food surpluses and new market combinations are explored through market research. Existing products are improved based on newly gained market information. Healthiness of soups is being improved. A commercialisation strategy is developed accordingly.
  • We explore business models to reach out to “solidary” consumers, willing to support more vulnerable consumers.
  • We explore options of exchanging products between the different participating countries.
  • We support food startups that will be able to develop a sustainable business model.

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The impact of the project is threefold:

  • The valorisation of leftovers of farm products;
  • The inclusion of vulnerable groups in the processing of the food products;
  • The availability of those healthy and nutritious food products for large numbers of vulnerable groups in the 3 countries.

New products based on food surpluses are launched (or ready for launch):

In Belgium, our partner enVie launched 5 new soups in the Belgian market in 2020: Cream of Leek, Courgette, Tomato & Basil, Tomato & Smoked Paprika and Cream of Carrot & Herbs. enVie aims for 2 additional products in the first quarter of 2021: 2 healthy and tasty tomato-vegetable sauces that can be used for pasta dishes or as a base for other family dishes. One sauce is spicy and one is more mild to make sure it appeals to children.

In the Netherlands, The Verspillingsfabriek, improved the recipes of the soups, using the Nutriscore methodology. Lower amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fats, resulted in Nutri-Scores A and B.

The Verspillingsfabriek and Wageningen university showed that no waste soup has a lower carbon footprint. Depending on the cultivation method of the tomatoes, the carbon footprint of no waste soup is a factor 3 (open field) or 10 (heated greenhouse) lower compared to other soup.

In Spain the following new products were launched on the market in the year 2020: chocolate cookies, almond and chia cookies, carrot breadsticks and cheese breadsticks. The RobinGood products are artisan and local products targeted to people who are aware of social and environmental issues. The products stand out because of their high quality. Their traditional recipes are prepared in a natural, artisanal way, generating employment for people at risk of social exclusion.

A mixed student team is established

A mixed student team, led by Sebastiaan De Zutter and Andrea Alvarez Mena, has been set up to support product development and business plans of social entrepreneurs. A student team at KU Leuven was supported to work with eco-innovative concepts related to food. For example, the development of a vegetable patty, made from vegetables with overproduction.

Furthermore, a student team at LUCA School of Arts supported the Robin Food project in redesigning the Robin Food Logo and Robin Food house style/branding. This collaboration lead to a renewal of the Robin Food brand in 2021, with the launch of the vegetable sauce and Robin Food as a start-up. We estimate this will be at the beginning of summer 2021.

The students now also play a key role in setting up a new project “RobinFood@School”. More info will follow later.

New startups were supported

In the Netherlands, StartLife, facilitated relationships between retail businesses and nine startup companies: Willicroft, Umameats, Wildcatch, Botanic Bites, Sauwercrowd, Tea by me, Seamore, Sunt, KRUSH.

We focussed on vegetarian and vegan products, as the market study revealed interesting opportunities in this segment. The tasting led to this final selection of products: pulled-oats, mint tea and fruit snacks. Currently these three products are pending to be launched on the shelves. We expect these to go live in the second quarter of 2021.

Besides working with existing startups to expand their retail network and knowledge, StartLife also developed an online channel for startups hit by Covid-19. One of the supported initiatives was a spin-off of the Robin Food initiative.

In Belgium, Rikolto, Riso, KU Leuven and StartLife are coaching the creation of two start-ups in line with the Robin Food principles, that will be able to develop a sustainable business model.

The first is the “Robin Food start-up”, that is being established by Riso, with advise of Rikolto and other experts. The Robin Food start-up, will reduce food waste, while making healthy food accessible for people living in vulnerable conditions.

The second start-up is led by a team of last-year students from the UCLL in Leuven, coached by professor Robrecht Van Goolen. They are developing a food product based on surpluses of local fruit. They teamed up with "Kort'om Leuven", a start-up created in 2020 with support of EIT FOOD and Rikolto. Kort'om Leuven is interested in commercialising this local product. Because of Intellectual Property rights, we cannot tell more about this product yet.

KU Leuven and Colruyt Group have given 1-to-1 support to the start-up enVie in 2020.

Who do we work with?

EIT Food
Community Development Riso Vlaams-Brabant
KU Leuven
Colruyt Group
De Verspillingsfabriek


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