If you’re one for a bargain, you’ll love the Danish supermarket that sells expired and "ugly" food.

WeFood, which was opened up by NGO Folkekirkens Nødhjælp in Copenhagen, offers customers up to 50 percent off products, including food, cosmetics and other household items. The company has an agreement with suppliers, such as Føtex, one of the biggest supermarket chains in Denmark, as well as the backing of the Danish government.

“We prevent food wastage and raise money for poor people in Africa,” Per Bjerre, WeFood project head, said.

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How did you come up with the idea to sell expired food at a discount supermarket?

– We saw stores and supermarkets in Denmark throwing away large amounts of food every day: bread, vegetables, fruit and flour, etc. But everything was perfectly fine for consumption. “What a waste,” we thought. We can’t allow that on this fragile planet, where so many people go to bed hungry or actually die from starvation. And so we decided to change this not very clever behavior.

What’s the main point of it?

– First, we will prevent waste by collecting good food that otherwise would have been thrown away — then sell it for a cheap price. Second, we want to raise money with the help of the WeFood store for poor people in Africa. The money can help them grow crops and feed their own families. We use the money to buy solar panels in African villages to run wells in areas affected by climate change.

What do you actually sell in the store?

– We sell all kinds of food, such as flour, canned food, bread, fruit, frozen goods and vegetables. Some of it we get from supermarkets because the food has reached its “best before” date. A lot of people don’t know that most of the food that has past its use-by date is perfectly good to eat. In most cases, it won’t make you sick or anything like that. We also sell food in damaged packets but the content is quite all right.

Is it legal to sell these products?

– Yes, new laws in Denmark make it possible to sell food that has expired. But the main supermarket chains in Denmark don’t want to sell them. They think that their customers will be angry if they come home and discover they have paid full price for “old” food. But at WeFood our customer expects to find food past its sell-by date, so they are happy to buy it and prevent foolish food waste.  

What about the health problems that expired food could cause?

– We use common sense and only sell the kind of food that is fine to eat and won’t harm anyone’s health. Of course we do not sell old meat or old milk. But we sell baked bread that comes directly from the local bakery, when they close up for the day. It is fine to eat and we have it at half its usual price.

Why do people buy these products?

– Most customers go to WeFood for political reasons. They want to prevent food wastage and at the same time save money. It is important that it is not a social supermarket for poor people; it is open to everyone in Denmark. It's what makes WeFood different from some social supermarkets in Europe, which are only open for the homeless and poor. In Denmark, wealthy people come for shopping here as well.

What’s next?

– We hope to open more stores in Denmark. We must do that because the customers are lining up every day and are buying almost everything every day. Also we have had enquiries from most parts of the world from people and companies wanting to open such stores in their countries as well. If possible we would like to see that happening and would be happy to assist.

– By Dmitry Belyaev