Danish producer saves 75 tonnes of ‘ugly’ tomatoes

Healthy production of tomatoes in Denmark, boosted by this year’s warm summer, has not been allowed to go to waste by a producer in Odense.

Danish producer saves 75 tonnes of 'ugly' tomatoes
Photo: Alfred Pedersen & Søn ApS/Stop Spild Af Mad

Alfred Pedersen & Son, a farm near Denmark’s third city, is one of two producers taking part in an initiative set up earlier this year by NGO Stop Wasting Food (Stop Spild Af Mad) in an effort to cut down wastage by selling irregularly shaped, but otherwise normal produce.

READ ALSO: Danish supermarkets to sell more ugly vegetables

The agreement, which was reached in May with supermarket chains Salling Groups and Rema 1000, enabled vegetables that would otherwise be seen as surplus to be sold at the companies’ stores at discounted prices. 25 øre (3 euro cents) per vegetable sold is donated to Stop Wasting Food under the scheme.

“We have for many years spoken in favour of selling vegetables of this kind in Danish supermarkets. This will help to reduce waste during primary production as well as create growth in the food retail sector. After ten years of debating food waste I am sure that Danish consumers are ready to welcome irregularly shaped vegetables on to supermarket shelves,” Stop Wasting Food's founder Selina Juul said when the scheme was introduced.

Customers have since snapped up the misshapen tomatoes, which have been sold whole and as ‘food waste ketchup’, with a total of 75 tonnes of the produce sold since May, Stop Wasting Food said in a press statement on Tuesday.

100,000 trays of the ‘ugly’ tomatoes, around 50 tonnes, have been sold in that time, along with 25 tonnes of ketchup, according to figures from Alfred Pedersen & Son. Both the tomatoes and ketchup had performed well at stores, the producer’s head of sales Claus Duedal Jakobsen told The Local.

The figures are likely to increase further by the end of the year, with the production season continuing until November, Jakobsen also said.

“Our season continues until the week commencing November 12th and the agreement (with Rema 100 and Salling Groups) continues until the end of the season. So there will be additional kilos, because our production continues right through the season,” he said.

Juul praised the sales success of the scheme and said she hoped to continue and expand it in future production cycles.

“I would love to have even more cooperation between our NGO and the producers,” she told The Local.

Meetings will be held between Stop Wasting Food and partners in the project during the autumn, the NGO founder said.

Jakobsen confirmed he expected a new agreement to be reached with retailers to repeat the scheme next year.

“We certainly want to do that, and we are already engaged in positive dialogue with Rema 1000 and Salling Group over this, so I’m in no doubt that we’re going to continue this next year,” he said.

READ ALSO: Government thinktank to tackle food waste in Denmark

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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