Selling Expired Food: Former President Of Trader Joe's Hopes 'The Daily Table' Project Will Educate Consumers About Food Waste, Product Freshness

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The Daily Table will repurpose the massive amount of "expired" food that goes to waste annually. epSos.de, CC BY 2.0

A new repurposing project stands to transform the way we think about expiration dates. Headed by former Trader Joe’s president Doug Ranch, The Daily Table will attempt to educate Americans about food freshness by repackaging and selling expired products that would otherwise end up in the trash. Ranch hopes that the project will help consumers realize that a product with an October 1 “sell-by” date won’t kill them if they eat it on October 2. 

The awareness effort comes in response to recent statistics indicating that about one-third of the world’s food goes to waste every year. In the U.S., the number is even higher, as almost half of the inventory gets thrown out in the supply chain. Raunch believes that a new type of supermarket offering perfectly fine, expired products and discount prices will help address this problem. 

“It's the idea about how to bring affordable nutrition to the underserved in our cities,” he said, speaking to NPR. “It basically tries to utilize this 40 percent of this food that is wasted. This is, to a large degree, either excess, overstocked, wholesome food that's thrown out by grocers, etc. ... at the end of the day because of the sell-by dates. 

“[So we] bring this food down into a retail environment where it can become affordable nutrition,” he added. 

Raunch envisions a hybrid between a grocery store and a restaurant. The idea, he says, is to acquire expired food from retailers and consumers, prepare it, and offer it at competitive prices comparable to those of fast food chains. Besides hot meals, locations will offer fruit and vegetables several days past the use-by date. 

Right now, the main obstacle is the widespread misconception that an expired product will sicken anyone who tries to eat it. Many generalize their fear of soured milk or spoiled seafood to include everything in their kitchen, habitually throwing out “expired” bread, cereal, soda, condiments, and other products that are safe to eat weeks after the sell-by date. However, Raunch believes that the public will realize that the practice is nothing new. 

“Food banks for years have done this,” he said. “I might say, without naming the names, one of the leading, best regarded brands in the large, national, food industry — they basically recover the food within their stores, cook it up and put it out on their hot trays the next day. That's the stuff that we're going to be talking about.”

The Daily Table’s first location will open in Dorchester, Mass. early next year. 

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