Instock Turns Food Waste Into Delicious Meals

Interview with Freke van Nimwegen, co-founder of Instock


By: Nadine Maarhuis – 03/03/2016


Instock puts food waste on the map in the most fun, creative, accessible and delicious way. In between a Scaling Program workshop at Impact Hub King’s Cross London and the launch of their new cookbook, co-founder Freke van Nimwegen finds some time to talk to me about their road to success.


Instock 3 Freke
Freke van Nimwegen – Co-founder Instock


The founders of Instock started out together as trainees at Albert Heijn. As supermarket assistant manager, Freke saw how much good food was unnecessarily wasted every single day: not because it was passed its sell-by date, but just because it wasn’t completely perfect (such as a net of lemons with one bad one and three perfectly fine ones in it). During an internal competition, Freke and the other founders presented their idea for Instock and won.


From there on things evolved quickly. In four months time, Instock managed to launch their pop-up restaurant in the Westerpark in Amsterdam. Now, 1.5 years later, Instock has their restaurant, shop and food truck. These initiatives all carry out the same message: food shouldn’t be wasted, it should be enjoyed and appreciated. And that’s exactly what Instock does. Every morning their electrical food rescue car drives through Amsterdam to pick up the harvest of the day. Their chefs create delicious and inventive dishes with it the same day.


”We believe that the only way to address the urgency of the food waste problem is by reaching as many people as you can in a fun, delicious and accessible way”


Ever since the foundation was launched in 2014 Instock has done an incredible job addressing the food waste problem. In 1.5 years time, the organization has saved over 90.000 kilos of food. Regarding energy savings, this means that 48.000 kilos of CO2 weren’t emitted. By creating delicious meals out of products that otherwise would have been binned, Instock also manages to raise awareness about food waste in a delightful and positive way: ”Most people who visit our restaurant come be-cause they’re intrigued by the concept. Very often, they expect simple food. However, after they’ve enjoyed a three-course meal that didn’t only taste delicious, but also looked amazing, most people are quite shocked to realize that the food they just ate normally would have been thrown out.”


Because it sounds like Instock is quite good at creating something greater than the sum of the individual ingredients, I wonder: what’s their secret recipe for success? According to Freke, making the food wastage problem accessible and fun is essential. ”We believe that the only way to address the urgency of the food waste problem is by reaching as many people as you can in a fun, delicious and accessible way. That’s why people return to Instock. If it only were about the concept, they wouldn’t.” Also, Instock is unique in the full sense of the word: there is no other Dutch restaurant like it.


But of course, Instock’s success didn’t come easy. Freke tells me that she has learned a lot in the last two years. For her, an important realisation was the fact that, because of Instock’s unique concept and approach, sitting back and relaxing is never an option. At Instock, every single day is a new challenge that requires good coordination and focuses: ”Because we never know which ingredients we’re going to get, we always need to improvise: what’s the menu going to look like? And how are we going to communicate the dishes on the plates?” Freke also tells me about Instock’s unique relation with its suppliers: “Because all the founders have their background at Albert Heijn, we are aware of their processes and line of work, and we know the people. It makes the coordination with the stores a lot easier.”


‘’The key is to start as soon as possible by scrumming, which means focusing on what you need and start with that.


To save at least 200.000 kilos of food every year, Instock is looking to expand its restaurant to two new locations in the Netherlands. By the end of this year at least one of these should be up and running. Besides, the foundation is in the middle of developing its product line and cookbook. ’’By giving people hands-on tips on how they can start saving food in their kitchens as well, we hope to change people’s mindset and thereby increase our impact.”


When I ask Freke what piece of advice she would give to other social entrepreneurs, she says: ‘’The key is to start as soon as possible by scrumming, which means focusing on what you need and start with that. When we launched the idea of Instock and said we wanted to open the doors of our pop-up restaurant in four months time, everyone thought we were nuts. But by cutting on all the unnecessary elements and making concessions – being open for three days a week to begin with and working with freelancers instead of directly hiring a team – we were able to do it!”


research-benisi-scaling-social-innovationsABOUT BENISI

Building a European Network of Incubators for Social Innovation

The BENISI partners seek to build a Europe-wide network of networks of incubators for social innovation. This network will proactively identify at least 300 social innovations that are identified with high potential for scaling successfully, and ensure the delivery of necessary support services to those social innovations. Networks are already structured in a collaborative mode; they are more able to spread knowledge and practice horizontally and they are the perfect ally when trying to develop a Europe-wide programme that needs to balance local action with continent-wide strategy and vision.

Support provided

    • Impact Hub Amsterdam inspired Instock through their EU Benisi programme: “By participating in the programme together with other fascinating social entrepreneurs, we gained a lot of energy. The vibe during such pieces of training and events is inspiring.’’ – Freke, co-founder of Instock.
    • Impact Hub Amsterdam connected Instock to other initiatives and social enterprises such as fellow-scaler and Impact Hub member Starters4Communities. Through Impact Hub and their programs Instock’s founders received practical advice on strategy execution, legal, financial and marketing-related topics and so on.
    • Impact Hub Amsterdam enabled Instock to participate in useful workbenches and programmes such as the Benisi and Scaling Program that helped Instock improve their overall strategy.