Circular economy

Delicious fresh juice – with a hint of organic waste

Matthieu Charest Les Affaires | Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on October 27, 2017

David Côté, Sales Manager and Co-Founder, and Julie Poitras-Saulnier, President and Co-Founder CREDIT: Sylviane Robini

Organic oranges, one of the ingredients of the ZEST juice, being cleaned in the washing basinCREDIT: Celia Spenard-Ko

Bottles of juice in the factory CRÉDIT: Celia Spenard-Ko

Food waste is an issue with deeply worrying consequences. A moral disaster for our planet, of course, and a huge issue for agribusinesses, which are losing precious resources, if only through the loss of food deemed too ugly to be sold in supermarkets. Yet there is significant scope for items considered waste by some to become resources for others. Two companies from Quebec have sniffed out a good business opportunity. Even if it comes with a slightly strange smell.

Approximately one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. A share that represents up to 1.3 billion tonnes a year. Losses are “occurring along the entire food chain” and “represent a waste of resources”, the UN agency explains.

Since resources are limited, and becoming scarcer in many cases, it is becoming more urgent to make the transition from a ‘linear’ economy to a ‘circular’ economy, according to the proponents of this new paradigm. Essentially, we need to move away from a simple “produce, consume, throw away and repeat” model towards one in which the “use of resources is optimised at every level of the lifecycle of goods and services.” This is the definition - simplified – proposed by the EDDEC Institute for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Circular Economy, located in Montreal, Canada.

It’s not about recycling, or at least, not only about recycling. It’s about using each resource to its full potential. There are 10 strategies that make up the circular economy, one of which is reuse. “A production method which can be very profitable, especially in the agribusiness sector”, Luce Beaulieu, coordinator at EDDEC, argues.

A factor that didn’t go unnoticed by two Quebec companies that make cold-pressed juice. Their business is about health, being good to the environment and above all, it’s a profitable sector that is seeing sustained growth.

Juice with a mission

Founded a year ago, Montreal juice start-up ‘LOOP’ is currently being distributed in around 400 outlets in Quebec. Their drinks come in six flavours and retail at 3.99 $CAD each. The company estimates that about 6,000 bottles are sold each week. LOOP has just received a subsidy of 400,000 $CAD from the Quebec government.

“Our primary objective is to save discarded fruit and vegetables, and to reduce food waste”, asserts co-founder David Côté. “We also want to democratise healthy living. It’s very simple: we do circular economy, our production costs are lower, and consumers are taking up our brand because we sell our products at a good price.”

The company Courchesne Larose, a big distributor of fruit and vegetables, supplies LOOP with produce that would normally be sent to landfill, at a cost, because it hadn’t been sold or because it is unsellable. The distributor, 50 per cent partner in the start-up, has no interest in inflating prices. “A crate of apples can cost us 5 $CAD instead of 45 $CAD,” explains Côté.

Finally, LOOP’s own waste (pulp) is offered to another start-up, Wilder & Harrier, which is working on incorporating such food waste into its innovative dog treats.

In order to maximise LOOP’s production, a factory of 4,000 ft² (about 370 m²) will be opened just next to Courchesne Larose’s warehouse in October 2017, co-founder Julie Poitras-Saulnier explains. This initiative will enable the company to reduce transport, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, to get hold of all the resources that are being thrown out, and to step up production; which could reach nearly 200,000 bottles per week.

“There’s an art to be found in waste”, co-founder David Côté asserts. With a one million turnover for the company’s first year of business, clearly there are employment opportunities and profits to be made too.

Beyond reuse

Unlike LOOP, which has focused on the ‘reuse’ aspect in its marketing strategy, DOSE is staking on the ‘organic’ nature of its juice products. Founded four years ago, the company estimates that it sells some 10,000 bottles a week at 5.99 $CAD each. The start-up is also putting into practice various circular economy strategies.

“‘Grade B’, or ‘ugly’ products, have always existed in the food industry”, relates Geneviève Brousseau Provencher, the company’s co-founder. “The food processing and restaurant industries already make use of those categories of food. It’s what we use too, as long as the taste is up to standard.”

Given the cost of fruit and vegetables, “it would be absurd to lose any of that”, she says. Moreover, DOSE, like LOOP, uses a highly interesting technique called pascalization, in order to extend the lifespan of its products. It’s a bit like pasteurisation, but is carried out at low temperatures. Instead of perishing after a few days, the cold-pressed juice stays good for about two months.

Finally, with the remains of the pulp of freshly squeezed fruits and vegetables, DOSE is coming up with a recipe for healthy crackers. In the end, “it’s the consumer who has an impact. If the consumer gives preference to local products, he or she creates jobs here, and reduces polluting emissions as well as food waste”, Geneviève Brousseau Provencher concludes.

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Published on October 27, 2017
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