Moving towards less waste and better health
When most of us think of IKEA we think of that big blue and yellow store on the outskirts of town. Or perhaps smart, affordable home furnishing products.
But you may be surprised to learn that IKEA is also the sixth largest food chain in the world.
Yes, IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad’s observation that “it’s hard to do business with someone on an empty stomach” has led to IKEA becoming - more or less accidentally - a big player in the food game.
ASC certified salmon – one of many dishes at the IKEA restaturant.
The IKEA vegetable ball – healthy and sustainable.
“Our market position doesn’t just offer business opportunities” says Michael La Cour, Managing Director, IKEA Food Services AB. “It brings with it a responsibility. We want to lead the health and sustainability agenda for food”, he says, “because you can’t talk sustainability without talking health.”
And it’s not just talk. IKEA is taking active steps. To begin with by offering healthy, sustainable food at price points people can afford. “That’s when we can make a difference” says Michael. Take the case of the IKEA vegetable ball, an alternative to the iconic Swedish meatball known and loved by millions of people around the world. Not many companies would launch a product that directly competed with an established top-seller, and at a lower price to boot. IKEA did. A “ballsy” move you might say, and one that really paid off both in terms of customer satisfaction and emission reductions. “It all goes back to just being more people and planet positive” continues Michael.
This year, for the first time ever, they’ve also included healthy snacks in the IKEA PS 2017 range and even drink mixes with probiotics. So, next time you visit the IKEA store you can not only come away with a new set of shelves but with a healthier tummy too.
Another area where IKEA is trying to make a difference is food waste. At the moment, the astonishing truth is that every third calorie produced on the planet is lost or wasted from the farm to the fork.
At the same time, every ninth person on earth is going hungry. “It’s an urgent issue – a moral issue, and companies need to step up and play their part” says Michael.
IKEA aims to cut food waste by 50%
The United Nations has set a goal of reducing global food waste by 50% by 2030. But IKEA is going further. Their own initiative, Food is Precious, aims to cut food waste in its food operations by 50% by the end of its fiscal year 2020.
Using a smart scale, food waste is measured and reported in the IKEA restaurants, bistros and Swedish Food Markets. As at the end of July 2017 the system had been implemented in 103 IKEA stores. According to Michael, the results have been very encouraging. “After just a few months we saw a reduction of up to 30%”, he says, a result he attributes to the combination of the measuring system and the efforts of very engaged co-workers. Efforts that are not to be underestimated.
When all 18 000 IKEA Food Services co-workers are on board acting as food waste ambassadors, they will be a force to be reckoned with. And not just for their contributions at work. So far, 50% of co-workers currently working with food say they are also taking measures at home to reduce food waste.
After just a few months we saw a reduction of up to 30%
At-home farming with the KRYDDA cultivation unit
Raising awareness and changing wasteful practices can go a long way, but what about exploring and developing alternative food sources and farming techniques? Well, IKEA is active on this front too. “It’s a very exciting time” says Michael. “You could say the food industry is where the tech industry was fifteen years ago. There are a lot of start-ups but so far no major player has stepped in”.
Enter IKEA. By sponsoring promising start ups and financing innovation labs like Space10 in Copenhagen, Denmark, IKEA is speeding up innovation, taking part of the learnings and rapidly bringing new technologies to market. “Right now, there’s a lot of good work being done with alternative proteins like insects and algae.
Not to mention at-home farming - something that we believe will become increasingly important” says Michael.
The ISTAD plastic bag is made of plastic that consists of at least 85% renewable content.
So, IKEA is striving to provide healthy, sustainable food, slashing food waste in its restaurants and several supply chains, and is sponsoring the development of new food technologies. But it doesn’t stop there. IKEA also offers a range of sustainable appliances and food storage accessories.
“You know the old adage that the fridge is the place where food goes to die” laughs Michael. “Well, we want to change that too”.
Can affordably-priced products, also be sustainably produced with good working conditions and fair wages? When they’re produced the IKEA way they can.
IKEA has launched IKEA Place, an augmented reality app based on the Apple ARKit framework. Find out how it makes homes furnishing more fun and less frustrating here.