Winter is coming. It’s dark and cold outside (at least here in Denmark), and summer seems a long time ago. And so far away. So here is a post about an Food Festival i attended this summer, to bring a little light and warmth. I attended Aarhus Food Festival this September, to taste all the new food products (Seaweed and insects was hot stuff) and to see if companies had focus on transparency and traceability of their products. Some did, which you will read more about later.
A little background of the Food Festival. It’s the largest food festival in the Nordic region. 48,000-square-foot space at Tangkrogen with over 30,000 people attending during a weekend. It’s for food lovers, children with curious taste buds, prominent chefs from Denmark and abroad, producers, researchers help explore the marvelous world of food. Boiled down to one sentence – a popular gathering for all food enthusiasts.
Why I was there?
First of all, I like to eat food. And at Aarhus Food Festival, you most certainly did. I like when it’s not just companies showing their new products, but where people, and especially kids, can learn to cook (see pictures) and see where the food comes from. But, I was curios to see, if food producers/companies, focus on transparency of their products. And I have to say, very few had. A majority had “organic” and “local” as their focus, but in no way showing it. I either had to ask several questions, to get them to tell me what “local” meant, and also why that was a good thing (?). There was some companies showing, and proudly, their produce partners. I’ll focus on two, Restaurant Hærværk (Vandalism) and ØNSK (Wish) Coffee. Hærværk beautifully showed where their ingredients for the annual Hot Dog of the year contender, came from. They had a map (see the last picture below), and proudly told how strong a bond they had with their business partners. This is especially made clear on their website, stating who and what they buy from each business partner.
I also had the pleasure to meet the guys from ØNSK Coffee. They source coffee beans directly from farmers in Nicaragua, and their mission is to create a more transparent coffee supply chain, by connecting farmer and consumer closer together, and giving farmers a fair price for their hard work. So it is my pleasure to feature a interview with co-founder of ØNSK, Andreas Kirk, to tell about their mission towards a more transparent coffee supply chain.
Can you start with telling us a little about yourself and ØNSK Coffee?
My name is Andreas Kirk, and I’m the co-founder of the coffee company ØNSK based in Copenhagen. My first touch with farmers in 3rd world countries was when I was having my sabbatical year. I went to visit and work for my uncle in Zimbabwe, working within the dairy industry. At that time we were working on developing a calf rearing system – made for Africa. When we were developing that system, there was a mortality rate on more than 50% of all calves! I went to see a lot of local farmers in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa – all the places I went I thought “here we have a really good story”. We should really try to enlighten all customers about these fantastic stories that is behind these products. High on my experiences in Africa I went back to Denmark. Here I started at Copenhagen Business School and met a guy called Rasmus. Rasmus had coffee bike, where he served coffee from. Rasmus and I was talking about where the coffee he used came from, and he hardly knew. He looked at the back of the coffee-bag and said proudly to me, “it’s from Africa, South America, Latin America and Asia”. I then started to scan the market, and it was actually really hard to figure out who made this coffee. There was almost no traceability! After some investigation of the range of coffee products, Rasmus and I looked at each other and said “we can do this better”. That was the start of ØNSK.
At ØNSK we import organic coffee directly from the farmer. We try to shorten the distance from the farmer to the end-customer as much as possible, and making sure to include our customers in the journey, from seed to cup, so they feel like they know their coffee supplier in Nicaragua. We do this by authentic storytelling and Social Media posts, connecting the farmer and customer. So you know, when you drink a cup of coffee from Nicaragua, it’s from Leonel Valladares.
Why do you have a focus on transparency and the farmers?
Most of the coffee producers is living in poverty. At the same time, the majority of people drinking the coffee, live far from poverty. We aim to balance that out, little bit. In order to do so, we believe that respect is one of the most powerful tools. Therefore we introduce the coffee drinkers to the farmer and showcasing the hard work that is behind producing coffee. By that, we believe, that people are willing to pay a little bit extra, and will choose to go for a company, that gives a significant higher pay to the farmers than the giants in the industry.
I can only support your mission. If is interested in learning more about you and your products, where can they find more?