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Frozen ready meals from salvaged ingredients by Sopköket

“Sopköket’s idea is a line of frozen ready meals made from ingredients salvaged from grocery stores and restaurants. A product range with a strong market profile and packaging that clearly indicates where the ingredients were sourced. With many years of experience in creating fresh dishes for restaurant service and catering, Sopköket is in a strong position to realise the vision. Thanks to Sopköket’s experience and research in the field, and the large potential supply of food waste, such a product line could be scaled up to a large volume. In addition, a functioning and financially sustainable model would be a source of inspiration for many others to copy the business.” Motivation of the jury.

In 2021, Sopköket enjoyed a glut of awards. First, they were named the Sustainability Initiative of the Year by the Sustainable Tourism Network. Then they received the Änglamark Prize from Coop and Stockholm’s Innovation Scholarship in the Social and Ecological Sustainability category. Just before Christmas, Sopköket also became one of three winners of the sustainability award 100% Circular – now rebranded as Circular Gastronomy Challenge. Offering catering and running a restaurant with food made from scratch using ingredients close to their expiration date that would otherwise have been thrown away: this is obviously something people want to support and encourage.

The history of Sopköket began in India, where founder Filip Lundin learned to ferment leftover banana peels and realised the importance of making use of every last bit of food. Back in Sweden, during his studies in Retail Management at the Stockholm School of Economics, he became aware of the food industry’s great challenges and how much food is wasted. He founded Sopköket in 2015 by serving the soup of the day made from salvaged ingredients in Rålambshovsparken in Stockholm. Since then, the business has grown and expanded.

Today Sopköket runs its own restaurant, catering and dark kitchen in Söderhallarna food hall in Stockholm. Since its inception, the organisation has donated a total of 27,486 meals to those in need, and by rescuing ingredients from various partners, it has reduced total food waste by 35,287 kilos.

– Currently, we reduce food waste by four tons a month and donate the equivalent of 2,000 portions to those in need, says Lundin. During the past year, we have collaborated with eight aid organisations to get the meals out. It’s a monthly positive effort just from our small unit in Söderhallarna.

But the plan is to scale up – by expanding to new locations and including new products and activities in the business.

– When we scale up to other locations in Stockholm and other cities such as Uppsala, Malmö and Gothenburg, we have the opportunity to increase the impact tenfold. We could potentially reduce food waste by 30 tons and serve 15,000 relief meals a month.

Sopköket received the award for its product line with ready-made, frozen meals created from salvaged ingredients. It is a way of harnessing the organisation’s experience and contact network in order to make an even bigger impression.

The plan is for the product line to eventually consist of 20–30 different dishes, but for now there are just a few. “Pappa’s tomato sauce” can be bought plain or with chicken or fish. “Grandma’s curry” is available with chicken, prawns, fish, or as a base for your own combinations. And “Erik’s Moroccan stew” is available with chicken and in a vegan version with chickpeas.

– For each product, we will include information that you can access via text or QR code on the packaging, says Lundin. It could be different ingredient combinations we recommend, but also things like how much food waste is linked to the main ingredient in the dish.

Since the availability of salvaged materials is uneven, the supply and ingredients must be allowed to vary over time.

– We imagine that some dishes may only be available for one month in a year. If we save a lot of chicken at some point, maybe we’ll make some different sauce bases and products with chicken, then maybe we don’t save chicken for a long time, but vegan steaks or something else, says Lundin.

Is there a limit to which food cultures the dishes can be inspired by?

– Absolutely not! Sopköket stands for multiculturalism, for creating job opportunities and bringing in influences from all over the world. Those who work with us, but also customers and their families and friends can come up with recipe tips. The main thing is that it tastes good and that we use salvaged ingredients, but it’s good if the dishes come from different cultures. Those who work with us bring knowledge from their respective backgrounds.

Production starts with Sopköket picking up rescued food themselves, or having it delivered to them at Söderhallarna. More than half comes from ICA Kvantum Södermalm, others from partners such as Kvalitetsfisk, Quorn, Fabrique, Arla, Biofood, Yipin, Gourmet Food and Fiordilatte Food. For increased transparency, it’s written on each package where the three main salvaged ingredients come from.

Sopköket’s team works to clean, chop, peel, pre-soak and store the ingredients in the fridge and freezer. The ingredients are then used for dishes that are portion-packaged, frozen and delivered back to ICA Kvantum Södermalm for sale. There are plans to expand the range to a few more stores.

As soon as the frozen dishes are launched, the focus will be on the next step: testing e-commerce sales. This will take place both in-house, via, and through collaboration with an established, larger food supplier. The hope is that within five to 10 years Sopköket will be a large, well-established e-retailer, have major partners and reduce food waste on a large scale.

– We want to have monthly subscribers all over Sweden, and also expand internationally, says Lundin. We also want to save more meat, fish, eggs and dairy products than we do today, because they are ingredients with a large climate footprint.

For Sopköket, the Circular Gastronomy support meant six months of coaching from chef, restaurateur and sustainability consultant Johan Gottberg. The help focused on creating structure and documentation around the work to make Sopköket less dependent on individuals. The support also included leadership coaching and workflow optimisation. Gottberg has also helped Sopköket create its own routines to continuously improve the flavours in the frozen ready-made dishes. The products were launched in autumn 2022 and are today available in a number of grocery stores. Sopköket is now profitable and the plan is to scale up in Sweden, and internationally.