While browsing social media during COVID-19 lockdowns, Maggie Quach noticed people posting ‘dumpster dives’ where they were retrieving recently expired food thrown away by shops.
But what started as simple curiosity in the trend, evolved into a business idea to help reduce the amount of food waste in landfill.
Located in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Newtown, Beyond Best Before opened its doors in July and has been thriving as locals, feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis, look for cheaper alternatives to their usual groceries.
Founded by Quach and her sister, the store sources products destined for landfill and resells them at a discount price.
These include items with expiry dates of less than six months or products that have been rejected by manufacturers, and include everything from chocolates and soft drink to kitchen staples such as salt and pepper.
Maggie recalls it was “really risky” when first opening the store, as she was unsure if the local community would go for her idea and products.
I feel like I’m contributing to a bigger cause and… I’ve found [that] really rewarding about this whole process.
But feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It’s kind of like fast fashion, but for groceries … fast pantry food,” Quach said.
“I have some regular customers that come shopping here and they’re really thankful, so because of that I’ve just found it really rewarding and I’ve met people that I wouldn’t normally have met because I work in IT.
“It’s just been so fun, this whole journey.”
The store is making a difference for those struggling with increasing food prices.
The latest report from the Australian Bureau of Statics indicates a 4.4 per cent rise in food costs over the last year – with a rise in bread, cereal and dairy products by over 10 per cent.
“And then people who are struggling with the high cost of living at the moment, hearing them come in and they’re just so excited, ’cause it’s premium brands at cut rate prices, so I feel like I’m contributing to a bigger cause and that’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve found really rewarding about this whole process,” said Quach.
Having worked previously in the food industry, Quach is well aware of the issues surrounding food waste and is trying her best to address the problem. This includes collaborating with Fight Food Waste CRC, an organisation aiming to improve competitiveness, productivity and sustainability in Australia’s food industry.
While Maggie believes individual awareness around reducing food waste is on the rise, she emphasises the importance of making an effort “collectively” to combat the issue.
“If we all work together and contribute to making a dent in these volumes and figures, then, that’s where we’re going to make huge contributions because individually, we’re not going to be able to really make the dial move very far,” she said.
“I think there’s only room for improvement from here and there’s lots of areas that everyone’s trying to pull strings and levers to do what they can to make a big impact.”
Main photo by Caitlin Maloney.