Jente de Vries and Lisanne van Zwol

Jente de Vries and Lisanne van Zwol

Programme: MSc Business Administration 2012
Currently: Founders Kromkommer
Nominated by: Joey Johannsen, Sustainability Coordinator  

“For us food waste is not only a problem, but also a huge opportunity.”  That is the crookedly delicious path to sustainability in the food chain taken on by RSM alumnae Jente de Vries and Lisanne van Zwol, founders of Kromkommer.

Kromkommer is a play on words – the crooked cucumber – and it refers to the ‘wonky’, cosmetically-imperfect fruits and vegetables that get dumped each year for no other reason than their slightly crooked – ‘krom’ – appearance. "About 30 to 50% of all the food worldwide is wasted. One of the factors contributing to this waste is cosmetic criteria. An estimated 5 to 10% of all vegetables and fruits (NL) is wasted because of their looks. They have the wrong shape, size or color and therefore they are not accepted, even though their taste is just as good as that of their 'perfectly looking' counterparts." Shocking. “Jente and Lisanne have the daring and resolve to interrupt the food waste cycle in Rotterdam,” says their DAA nominator Joey Johannsen, RSM’s Sustainability Coordinator. "With an achievable and solid business plan they’ve formed Kromkommer, and are working with local farmers, shop owners and community members to reintroduce food items onto dinner plates, not waste bins.”

If ‘sustainability’ sounds severe, look at the deliciously, sustainably hedonistic dinners their innovative business model has provided: They are changing minds are hearts by means of the palate. Food, they say, belongs in bellies and not bins – and Kromkommer has organised dinners for up to 50 people from food items salvaged from farmers and grocery stores. Winners of the FoodGuerilla Start Up of the Year Award for 2012 (for which they received a €2000 cash prize), they were part of that organisation’s Amsterdam-based DAMn Food Waste event last June, during which they helped feed 5,000 people with what they affectionately call their ‘wonkies’.  And during the Think.Eat.Save seminar at RSM last June – an event co-organised by Sustainable RSM and the RSM chapter of the group Net Impact, designed to highlight innovation in the Dutch food landscape -  they earned acclaim for their brilliant business model at the same time they raised awareness of the food waste issue.

They credit RSM with the initial spark of their vision. “RSM not only provided the tools, but more importantly the inspiration for starting Kromkommer,” they say. “During one of our courses we went ‘dumpster diving’ and were confronted with the immense amount of food that is wasted.  That triggered the business.” They are driven forward by the urgent need to change the system.  How do Jente and Lisanne define success?  “Having a positive impact with a business that gives you energy and that is sustainable in every possible aspect,” they say. Favourite quote?  “We have a strategic plan: it’s called doing stuff!”