Doug Rauch, who spent 14 years as the president of Trader Joe's, is opening a new kind of grocery store: one that sells expired food. He's calling it The Daily Table, and it will open early next year in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
The idea isn't as radical as it sounds. A full third of the world's food, and up to 40 percent in the United States, is wasted each year. Plenty of foods that appear to be expired, or past their sell-by date, turn out to be perfectly safe. Still, a recent study found that nine out of ten Americans will throw out food that's past its "use before" date without first checking to see if it's still good. It amounts to $165 million that ends up in the trash each year, just waiting for someone to capitalize on it.
Rauch told NPR the idea isn't much different than what's already being done to address food waste and hunger:
...food banks for years have done this. I might say, without naming the names, one of the leading, best regarded brands in the large, national, food industry — they basically recover the food within their stores, cook it up and put it out on their hot trays the next day. That's the stuff that we're going to be talking about. We're talking about taking and recovering food. Most of what we offer will be fruits and vegetables that have a use-by date on it that'll be several days out.
Instead of a food bank, Rauch is opening up a "retail environment," which he envisions as part-market and part-restaurant. The focus will be on healthy, inexpensive prepared meals and produce. His main competition, as he sees it, won't be his former company: "There aren't Trader Joe's in the inner-cities in America, at least to my knowledge," he said.
Instead, he's taking on the fast food industry. And if his made-over leftovers can compete on price with Big Macs and french fries, it could help redefine what we think of as a fresh meal.