Unwrapping Denmark’s first zero-packaging food store

Inspired by the success of zero-packaging stores across France, a pair of visionaries will open Denmark's first food store of its kind in Copenhagen this August.

Unwrapping Denmark's first zero-packaging food store
Løs Market will be opening in Copenhagen this summer. Photo: Submitted

Denmark did not fare well in the latest Eurostat report on waste in Europe. According to the study, Danes led the EU in 2014 by producing a tremendous 759 kg of waste per citizen. The figures are pretty staggering, especially considering Denmark’s northern Norwegian neighbours wasted only 423kg in the same year.

But there are eco-friendly changes underway in Denmark. The country has cut its food waste by 25 percent over the past five years and recently made global headlines for opening the world's first supermarket exclusively selling excess food.  

Now two pioneers are bringing another revolutionary concept to the shoppers of Copenhagen in another first for the nation.  

The organic food store Løs Market will introduce an innovative zero-packaging concept to Copenhagen this August, hoping to reduce the Danes' oversized trash output.

Løs Market founders Frédéric Hamburger and Constance Leth found the inspiration to create their zero packaging store in France and Germany.

“The inspiration came from France where around 500 organic shops are selling goods in bulk in containers already,” Hamburger old The Local.

“Through our visits to these stores we could tell that people are now ready to buy without packaging because many are now tired of plastic and packaging, especially in Denmark,” they continued.

Denmark is already familiar to the concept thanks to the rich abundance of pick-and-mix sweets stores scattered across the country.

Løs Market will adapt that tried and true concept with a unique twist by essentially replacing those sugary cavity creators with organic cereals, fruit, vegetables, wines and over 400 other organic products.

Customers will be encouraged to bring their own containers to the store for dry goods, with Løs Market also offering biodegradable paper bags for shoppers who don’t have a spare one to hand. When it comes to liquids, consumers will be given a refillable bottle to reuse until their thirst for wine, olive oil and soap is sated.

Løs Market will allow customers to bring and re-use their own containers. Photo: Submitted

Although changing Danish shopping habits is going to be far from an easy task, the Løs Market founders are confident the zero packaging shopping experience will be as successful with Danish consumers as it is with the French.

“It’s going to be a long road to change people’s buying habits, but when we see all the people willing to buy without packaging in France, we are quite optimistic that we will create the same ‘movement’ in Denmark,” Hamburger said.

Løs Market has launched a crowdfunding campaign ahead of its planned August opening.

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Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

From Danbo to Danablu and the Danish feta that can't be called feta - Denmark produces over four hundred thousand tonnes of cheese each year and exports it across the world. So why is Danish cheese so popular, and what are the country's best-loved cheeses?

Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

Cheese-making is a serious business in Denmark. In 2021, the country produced a total of 454,500 tonnes of cheese and Danish cheese has won awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest.

The tradition goes back to the Viking era and today, the country’s climate and pastoral land make it ideal for producing cheese (ost). About three quarters of the country’s milk production is turned into cheese, butter and milk powder.

Not only is cheese popular in Denmark, where it’s eaten with pretty much any meal and snack (can you even have a bolle [bread roll] without ost?), it is also eaten around the world in countries including South Korea, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria and even France.

In 2021, Denmark exported a total of 401,845 tonnes of cheese, making it one of the top cheese exporters in the world. The biggest importer of Danish cheese was Germany (94,419 tonnes), followed by Sweden (52.924 tonnes) and the UK (42,905 tonnes). 18,097 tonnes of cheese was exported to Japan and 5,657 to the United States.

What types of cheese does Denmark make?

The different types of cheese in Denmark can be hard to distinguish and there are a lot of them. You can quite easily end up with a fridge full of strong smells that you weren’t expecting. 

Danbo, often called ‘Denmark’s national cheese’, is the most produced and consumed cheese in Denmark. It has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, meaning it can only be made in Denmark to specific Danish standards.

Danbo is sold under various trade and brand names, including LillebrorGamle Ole, and Riberhus. Lillebror (meaning Little brother) is very mild and often sold in childrens’ packs, whereas Gamle Ole (meaning Old Ole) is matured for a long time, which means it’s strong and smelly. Caraway seeds are sometimes added to this cheese.

Esrom also has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status and is made from pasteurised cow’s milk. It is semi-soft with small holes and is pretty pungent.

Havarti is one of the most famous Danish cheeses. It’s a bit like a cheddar in that the taste can be mild, but the longer the cheese is stored, the stronger it gets. 

Danablu is a Danish Blue soft blue cheese, similar to Roquefort. It has a strong aroma and a sharp and a little salty taste. Danablu is often used in America to make blue cheese dressing for salads and blue cheese dip for chicken wings. 

A dairy farm in Klemensker, Bornholm has twice been named world champion in cheese making. Photo: Morten Juhl/Ritzau Scanpix

Mycella is a veined blue cheese made from pasteurised cow’s milk on the island of Bornholm and is similar to Gorgonzola. It goes well in a salad or cheese platter or even crumbled on top of an open sandwich.

Blå kornblomst, meaning ‘blue cornflower’, is a creamy blue cheese with a mild, slightly salty taste. The cheese is white to yellowish with blue tinges and is made from pasteurised cow’s milk on North Jutland.

Danish rygeost, meaning ‘smoked cheese’ is mild, light and smokey. It originates from 19th century Funen, with some believing it dates back to the Viking Age. 

A dish of potato, monkfish and smoked cheese.

A dish of potato, monkfish and smoked cheese. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

Vesterhavsost, meaning ‘North Sea Cheese’, is a semi-hard cheese with a slightly salty taste as it is ripened in the sea air of North Jutland. It’s referred to as the Danish version of Gouda. 

Fyrmester or Fyrtårnsost, meaning ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ or ‘Lighthouse Cheese’, is an extra-mature version of the vesterhavsost, aged for at least 52 weeks.

Samsø cheese is similar to Emmentale and made on the island of Samsø in Kattegat.

Hvid ost, meaning ‘white cheese’, is Denmark’s equivalent to feta cheese but uses cow’s milk rather than the goat or sheep’s milk used in Greek feta cheese. It’s milder and doesn’t crumble like Greek feta cheese because it’s made differently, using something called ultrafiltration.

There have been debates as to whether this actually makes it feta cheese. Earlier this year, Denmark lost a case at the European Court of Justice over its farmers exporting cheese outside the EU labelled feta, something only Greece can do. The cheese is sometimes labelled in supermarkets as ‘salad cubes’ (salat-tern).

There is, perhaps, one thing that unites almost all Danish cheeses: they are sliced using the characteristic ostehøvl (cheese slicer), the quintessential Danish kitchen utensil.

There are two types of ostehøvl: a wire-based type and a version that looks a bit like a trowel, with a raised edge and a gap in the middle for the sliced cheese to pass through.

Cheese vocab:

Blød ost: Soft cheese

Halvfast ost: Semi-soft cheese 

Fast ost: Semi-hard cheese 

Hård ost: Hard cheese

Ekstra hård ost: Extra hard cheese

Frisk ost: Fresh cheese

Ostehøvl: cheese slicer