Trash’ure Cakes bakes cakes from fruit and vegetable waste together with refugees

Apples with soft spots, leftover carrots and, in the future, maybe mushrooms and bean sprouts: these are some random ingredients that they use in their baked goods at the Nijmegen catering company Trash’ure Taarten. Everything is saved from the waste mountain and is 100 percent vegan. The company is also experimenting with edible packaging. The cakes are delivered by electric car. But above all, this social enterprise helps refugees find work.

The idealist and vegan Jeanne van Ittersum (27) is co-owner of this four-year-old start-up. A strong sense of responsibility for society drives her in the fight against food waste. “I feel a very strong connection with people, animals and the earth. I therefore want them to go well,’ she says in this episode of today’s start-up.

How are your cakes made?

“We make cakes like any other baker, only from discarded food. We buy rejected food from Dutch growers. Leftovers are usually fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots. An average cake consists of about 60 percent rejected products. In the first year, I tried to aim for as high a percentage as possible, but I quickly learned that this is not the most sustainable option. For example, you use more energy to dry stale bread and grind it into flour than when you buy flour in the store. We want our cakes to be as sustainable as possible. Eventually, I will even switch to edible paper.”

Many employees are refugees on benefits. How do you help them?

As a social enterprise, we must help 75 refugees find a real job in three years. A study with a job guarantee is also allowed. Our funding is based on that. If we do not reach that target, we will not receive any money or the next loan. It can be quite difficult: we sometimes get people aged 54 who cannot read and write. In that case, we communicate with our hands and feet, because you have to start somewhere. We let them work for us as much as possible and speak more and more Dutch with each other. That way they get used to the Dutch work culture.”

What’s the downside to an idealistic venture like Trash’ure Pies?

“When we approach large potential customers, we are not always appreciated. I think it’s also because of our age. We are young people with ideals, and that is sometimes seen as ‘cute’. But it will work, it’s just a matter of time. It’s just a tough business world we’re in, and we have to find our way through it.’

Were there times when you wanted to throw in the towel?

Oh yes, hundreds. Customers can ask the impossible of us because they want to be as cheap as possible. In the beginning we agreed sometimes, but now that we are a little bigger we have the opportunity to say no more often. We searched town and country for days for a specific product, and the customer was still not satisfied. We also feel that we have to travel longer distances for customers. Everything is now delivered with an electric car: can be done for short distances, but no longer. Electric driving is so difficult because it means we have to charge the car very often. We are looking for a solution, but I strongly believe that I will not switch to a smelly diesel.”

What is your ambition for the future?

I really want to make Trash’ure a strong local brand, like Jan de Groot in ‘s-Hertogenbosch with his Bossche bollen. I want the whole of Nijmegen to think of us when they think of a cake. A local network is very important for this and we can still improve that. We would like the municipality to knock on our door more often when there is a party or event. I also hope to be able to use more and more different products in our cakes, such as mushrooms, bean sprouts and onions. These are ingredients that take longer compared to processing a cake. But we want to grow, so try more.”

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