Meet the Maker: Spare Fruit

Spare a thought for the spare fruit.

Meet the Maker: Spare Fruit

After volunteering for FoodCycle a few years ago, and more recently being inspired by industry pioneers such as Rubies in the Rubble – who make relishes and jams from surplus produce – Ben Whitehead says he launched Spare Fruit because of his 'absolute disdain for food waste'. 'I grew up fruit picking in the sleepy Suffolk countryside, spending many a day gathering and eating apples, strawberries and raspberries on fruit farms. I was also brought up in a family where absolutely nothing was wasted and everyone worked to give back in some way – so this project was always in my DNA.'
Keen to create a product that would preserve the goodness and flavour of fresh fruit while also raising awareness of food waste issues, Ben developed his crunchy vegan fruit crisps, made only from naturally sweet sliced apples and pears that are slowly air-dried (never fried) with pips and all.
'I started by selling my snack products in local cafés, made with dehydrated surplus fruit gathered from my local market. I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of produce that was going to waste, so I soon realised that if I wanted to rescue fresh produce on a bigger scale I'd need to work directly with farms – many of which struggle to cope with surplus produce – and create a consistently high-quality product.'
Spare Fruit has used around 40 tonnes of fruit to date and aims to rescue a further 5,000 tonnes over the next five years. 'We grow a huge amount of apples and pears in the UK, around 600K tonnes in fact,' says Ben. 'But it's hard for farmers to forecast demand and even harder to anticipate growing conditions, so there are often large volumes of surplus produce.'
Ben says that feedback has been hugely positive. 'We recognise the growing importance consumers place on health and provenance, but if it doesn't taste great you're not going to stay around for long,' he says. 'Winning our first Great Taste Award was hugely important for us, as the industry's toughest critics are validating our belief that surplus can mean delicious.'
• Spare Fruit crisps are £1.09–£1.25 at Ocado.

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