Moving People

Saving the World With Dumplings

Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab and Mauritz Schröder are making creative dumplings using excess food. Who inspired them to do that? Her grandmother. DingsDums Dumplings, the start-up of the two lateral hospitality entrants, received the coveted METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality.

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Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab & Mauritz Schröder
What does a grandma have to do with an impact start-up? In the case of DingsDums Dumplings  from Berlin a lot. After all, her sustainable handling of food not only inspired Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab to think twice about her own waste of food, but also about our society’s deeply rooted habits in that regard. Without wasting time, she teamed up with Mauritz Schröder, who contributed his valuable management expertise to complement her creative energy for founding companies. The end result was delicious dumplings, filled with excess and salvaged food, for dining in and carry-out. In November 2019, the start-up received the coveted METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality.
‘Actually we’re a normal restaurant – with the same requirements and everything else,’ says Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab. She and her partner lovingly call their shop at Wiener Straße 34 in Berlin ‘little snack showroom’. The menu always changes completely, because Wohlrab and Schröder only take what they can get. One week that could be red cabbage and beetroot and next week it could be chicken and spinach. ‘Only potatoes are always available,’ Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab says laughing. Since 2017, she and Mauritz Schröder have been making delicious dumplings with the most adventurous flavours – almost exclusively from excess and salvaged food.  Quality assurance of the food items used in this process is carried out by the cooperation partners, which include METRO Deutschland and SIRPLUS as well as food retailers.

Ingrain appreciation in people’s minds again

 ‘Our goal was to be able to use all foods – not just fruit and vegetables, but also meat, fish and dairy products,’ says Wohlrab. ‘This is how we came up with the dumpling concept, because you can really process just about everything.’ Items that do not get incorporated as a delicious filling or in the dough often make great sauce ingredients.

We’re used to not having to pay much for food, so it’s easy to think that it’s not worth much. We believe that it’s important to show our customers that food must be valued.

Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab

‘We’re used to not having to pay much for food, so it’s easy to think that it’s not worth much. We believe that it’s important to show our customers that food must be valued,’ adds Wohlrab. ‘And that there’s no disadvantage to anyone if they consume excess or salvaged food. Appreciation must really ingrain itself in people’s minds again.’ Just like her grandmother did. ‘My grandma always used all food and ate leftovers the next day,’ remembers the hospitality founder. ‘When I studied in Berlin and later worked in an agency, this way of life, this conscious handling of food, was lost in my everyday life. I always had a full refrigerator and always threw away a lot. At some point it really bothered me so much that I started looking for a solution to this problem, which affects our whole society, not just me.’

The enthusiasm of others for their idea encouraged the founders

Neither Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab nor Mauritz Schröder had any hospitality experience when they founded their start-up. They had previously considered different ways of getting excess food to the market: meal kit boxes, for example. ‘But the logistical effort for it is enormous, especially if you want to be completely sustainable,’ says Wohlrab. Eventually they somehow came up with dumplings. Using different doughs, fillings and sauces keeps them always interesting. ‘And both of us really like dumplings!’
dumplings
Wohlrab and Schröder’s dumplings were tested for the first time outside their circle of friends at a crowdfunding event of SIRPLUS. The little treats sold like hot cakes, and their inventors were asked repeatedly about the location of their restaurant. However, at that time the plan was still to sell the dumplings through food retailers. But DingsDums dumplings were requested for catering time and again. ‘Everything picked up so fast – it practically took on a life of its own,’ remembers Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab. ‘People constantly asked us for photo and interview appointments and we were even booked by well-known companies, although we didn’t even have a restaurant and always cooked in shared kitchens. The amount of enthusiasm for our idea we saw in people finally gave us the courage to just go ahead and open the restaurant. We had so much to do. There wasn’t even time for doubt.’

Our current work experience can’t be compared to everyday office life. We love direct customer contact and the surprises and decisions we face every day as independent restaurateurs.

Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab

Food rescue business requires maximum flexibility

There are no regulated kitchen times at DingsDums Dumplings – the food rescue business requires maximum flexibility. Production takes place whenever ingredients are available. Foods that are close to the consumption expiry date are processed immediately. While people at the front of the small restaurant are tasting the food, our employees are cooking, filling and folding in the large kitchen out back. Each dumpling is then individually quickfrozen, which facilitates precise warming, avoids food waste and makes the dumplings last up to five months longer. In the meantime, they also hired a cook, with whom they spontaneously develop new dumpling creations. ‘We tell him what our partners currently have available, and he tells us what we should buy.’

Although they mostly produced food to go before Corona, this was not an easy time for them. ,Thanks to the 360-degree-consulting we won last year, we were able to expand our online-shop. The past few months have shown us, that we want to concentrate on this in the future’, the founders say. The small restaurant will be closed in the foreseeable future – Wohlrab and Schröder are currently testing a café concept with homemade cakes made from saved ingredients and fair coffee. In addition, the sale of their dumplings in the rescue markets of SIRPLUS and Original Unverpackt is planned, as well as the sale of organic certified dumplings in organic markets. ,Above all, we want to go to the supermarkets in order to reach more people with our products and thereby save more food’, so Wohlrab.

While Ann-Kathrin Wohlrab has a more creative professional background, business partner Mauritz Schröder’s career has been in marketing and management. ‘This allows us to do a lot ourselves in terms of design and marketing,’ says Wohlrab. On the hospitality side, the two restaurateurs are self-taught. ‘We had to read and learn a lot and we still make new experiences today. Our current work experience can’t be compared to everyday office life. We love direct customer contact and the surprises and decisions we face every day as independent restaurateurs.’

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