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The CLIC® Chronicles: Meet Phenix: the start-up helping everyone fight food waste

The CLIC® Chronicles: Meet Phenix: the start-up helping everyone fight food waste

Interview with Jean Moreau, Co-Founder and CEO of Phenix

 

What is Phenix and what is its mission?

Phenix is a French start-up, founded in 2014, that creates tech solutions for reducing food waste. Our mission is to put an end to waste by connecting those who have too much with those who don't have enough. Thanks to the 16,000 food professionals involved with Phenix, more than 130,000 meals that would otherwise go to waste are saved every day.

 

Why is donation the best solution for companies?

When food outlets have unsold products they have to pay to discard them. The more waste they have, the higher the bill. In France, when they choose to give unsold products to charity instead of throwing them away, they benefit from a tax reduction of up to 60% of the purchase value of the products. Similar tax incentives are found in other countries, such as Spain, Portugal and the United States.

In this respect, donation is a very good solution. It makes sense economically, creates social value for the recipients, and of course it’s preferable environmentally.

Today we are able to guarantee zero food waste by creating multiple complementary solutions, each adapted to the specific segment of the value chain

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Are companies receptive to change?

Yes, more and more! Generational renewal is good for us. Young people are taking over the management of companies and this is opening doors for us. Little by little, companies are becoming aware of consumer expectations. On both the supply and demand sides everyone is willing to act against waste, which was much less the case twenty years ago. For companies, anti-waste policies are now less a "nice to have" and more a "must have".

Discover more on Lombard Odier’s food system strategy here

 

Are there truly zero waste companies today? How can we achieve this?

Yes, today we are able to guarantee zero food waste by creating multiple complementary solutions, each adapted to the specific segment of the value chain – for instance a manufacturer will not have the same waste issues as a retailer. This is why since 2014 we’ve been building a multitude of tech tools adapted to the specific needs of each market participant.

We’ve proven that zero waste isn't just a dream: we’ve already transformed more than 100 supermarkets into "zero food waste stores" that don't throw away any food, any day of the year. Others will follow because the race for perfection is on!

Read also: The Rouvinez family: sustainably preserving vineyards

 

Who are your customers today? And how do you see your market share increasing?

Our market share is increasing for the simple reason that the size of the cake has been increasing for several years. Today, we have 16,000 partners in France – we are in a huge market because all food outlets have unsold products. In France alone we know that there are 16 billion euros of value to be recovered from food waste each year, so we have plenty of work to do in the coming years. And of course there’s strong international potential: the problem goes far beyond France.

 

Concerning individuals, what innovations and services does Phenix offer in order to reduce food waste?

Historically, we were only involved in food donation. But we quickly realised that donation didn’t allow us to go after small dispersed batches, typically those of small neighbourhood merchants who have 40 euros of unsold goods daily. Charities prefer to concentrate their efforts on big donations, especially those from hypermarkets, industrialists and wholesalers, since they often lack volunteers and can’t be everywhere at once.

Moreover, donation raises a whole series of questions in terms of traceability. For example, it’s easier to donate packaged products with barcodes than bakery products. And some products can’t legally be donated – such as shrimps, offal, minced steaks... the list is long.

…the Phenix app gives back purchasing power to the consumer while helping small merchants avoid losses linked to waste

The Phenix anti-waste app lets us deal with smaller batches, and also products that can’t legally be donated, by letting the consumer buy unsold products from retailers at reduced prices in the form of surprise baskets. In this way, the Phenix app gives back purchasing power to the consumer while helping small merchants avoid losses linked to waste. To date more than 5 million people have downloaded our app!

 

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This being said, the majority of the products saved from waste by Phenix are by donation – we believe donation remains the best way to give value to the large volumes of unsold food. The app complements, not replaces, this work on donation.

Read also: Tackling food waste with Too Good To Go

 

Tell us about Phenix Date

Phenix develops mostly curative solutions to food waste, but for the past year we’ve had a new preventive tool, Phenix Date, which allows the optimisation of date control for products on the shelf. Do you sometimes forget products in your fridge and realise too late that they’re past their expiration date? For supermarket department managers, it's the same. The Phenix Date scanner alerts department managers when it’s time to remove products and find a value channel for them: for example, donation, and sale on a short date or animal feed.

 

Tell us about your labelling machine (Phenix Stick)

Phenix Stick is a labelling machine for short-date sales, where close-to-expiry products that can’t be given to associations for legal or logistical reasons are offered to customers at a reduced price.

 

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The Phenix innovation is an algorithm that takes into account multiple parameters to ensure that the Phenix labeller prints the correct discount for each item, destroying as little value as possible for the retailer. Before Phenix Stick, department managers chose the discount to be applied in a somewhat disorganised way. By taking into account the weather, the order history, the type of product, or the day of the week, the algorithm ensures the labeller prints the right price on the product.

Read also: Tactics to reduce food waste

 

How do you differ from your competitors?

Our holistic approach differentiates us, and the strength of our promise: zero food waste. We are able to fully process our customers' unsold food via multiple complementary solutions. Instead of having several service providers they have a single contact, Phenix, who manage all their unsold food while trying to create the maximum social, economic and environmental value. This reduces costs and makes the operation more efficient.

…waste has no borders, but we need to focus on specific geographical regions while we develop our services…

What are your future ambitions? Where will we find Phenix in the next few years?

We want to become a "European champion of impact." Of course waste has no borders, but we need to focus on specific geographical regions while we develop our services, rather than taking the risk of spreading ourselves too thin.

We want to consolidate the French and European market. We are already present in six countries and we will continue to launch others. But we want to continue to invest in the quality of our tech products – that’s essential for us. At the same time, we want to keep moving up the value chain, to be more and more present with industrialists, wholesalers, producers and catering companies.

Read also: The role of investors in the transition towards sustainable food systems

 

What advice can you give to reduce food waste personally?

First of all, when you go shopping, make a list of the products you already have, paying attention to the best before dates and the use-by dates. The aim is to buy only what you really need at the supermarket. And you should never shop when you are hungry as this encourages impulse buying, which itself leads to waste.

Then, when you are shopping, you can choose anti-waste products. For example, there are brands of fruit juices and jams made from "ugly" fruits and vegetables. Also, whenever possible, buy in bulk so that you have exactly the quantities you need to cook your meal, and never more.

Read also: 5 reasons why you should consider going plant-based

In addition, I never go to a restaurant without a container to take any leftovers home. In France, this option has been mandatory in all restaurants for a year. Other tips include freezing leftovers. And you should put products in the right place in your fridge – there’s a very specific way to organise your fridge so as to best preserve food according to type.

To conclude, my simplest advice is to cook leftovers. Any opportunity to get behind the stove is always good to take!

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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