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Alternative supermarkets in France: We refuse to waste

   In July of this year, a special supermarket chain was opened in Saint-Quaiperro, Brittany, France, called "Nous anti-gaspi" (Nous anti-gaspi). This is its 17th store opened in France. The background color of the supermarket trademark is black, with red and green letters on it representing the brand name, and a tree painted next to it for decoration.

  The shelves of this new store are completely different from the traditional supermarkets. The foods here are either nearing the expiration date or the packaging boxes are indented. Although they are no problem to eat, they will definitely not enter the door of the traditional supermarkets. In the past, most of this kind of food would be destroyed, but "we refuse to waste" did the opposite, and monopolizes this kind of food, which is its characteristic. As a social mutual aid economic enterprise, the supermarket's vision is to promote the whole society to develop good habits of saving food, and it has won the approval of the French government. According to data released by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, France wastes 10 million tons of food every year, worth about 16 billion euros. Charles Lotman, the co-founder of the supermarket chain, said: “55% of waste occurs in the upstream links of producers, vegetable farmers and factories, and 45% of waste occurs in the downstream links including stores and consumers.” In the

  past ten years, A number of companies such as Phenix and Too Good to Go have emerged one after another. They sell part of the food that cannot be sold in supermarkets in the form of big sales or donate them to charities. And Lotman's company is unique because it focuses on the food that suppliers and logistics companies cannot enter the gates of traditional supermarkets.

  "We have 462 bottles of breakfast milk, which will expire on August 7, 2021; 414 bottles of cider, which will expire on February 2, 2022; we also have 904 bottles of soy milk, which will expire on March 29, 2022... Can you receive it?" Lotman receives such mails from logistics companies every day. If a logistics company damages the food packaging during the delivery process, the supermarket will generally refuse to accept the damaged goods. The same is true for the shipper, and the food will fall into the hands of the logistics company. In the case of serious damage to the packaging and food, the supermarket can even refuse to pick up the entire truck. In this case, the logistics company must quickly find a market, and Lotman's supermarket is a good choice.

| Receivable |


  However, compared with logistics companies, suppliers send more emails. For example, due to the adjustment of marketing strategy, a beverage company hopes to release all the old packaging of organic lemon juice as soon as possible. A cheese manufacturer hopes to solve the problem quickly. There are 200 boxes of Salvadoran cheese that expire in 15 days and so on. Lotman explained: “According to the agreement between the producer and the distributor, the remaining shelf life of this cheese is not up to standard.” Because dealers have different shelf life requirements for different foods, such as yogurt at least for supermarkets. On sale for 20 days, ham is 16 to 18 days. In addition, the supplying wholesalers often have some unpackaged bulk food leftover, and Lotman's supermarket will also recycle them at a low price.

  Lotman's supermarket chain has a total of 150 employees, of which 20 are responsible for contacting 700 suppliers in France. Lotman said: "The money we pay can cover the supplier's production costs, but they can't make a profit on this."

  There is also a type of food that has a customer's trademark printed on it, and the supplier cannot sell it. The reason is simple. Supermarkets are responsible for their own brands, no matter who sells them. However, two supermarkets, Carrefour and Franprix, have reached a consensus with Lotman's company that they allow unsold private label foods to be resold to Lotman's company. Nowadays, more and more large supermarkets are also interested in joining this cooperation model.


"We refuse to waste" supermarket founder Charles Lotman (left) and Vincent Justin (right)


Customers shopping in the supermarket

|The birth of "eliminated goods" supermarket |


  In 2016, Lotman and Vincent Justin had the idea of ​​a joint venture. Lotman is a high-achieving student at the Essek Higher Business School. For the first five years of his work, he was doing restructuring of troubled companies. After that, he devoted himself to food conservation projects. Justin graduated from the Boulle Institute in Paris. At first, he worked for Radio 1 in France, and later started his own business, doing hotel interior design. The two met for the first time at the start-up company Phenix, which was founded in 2014. This company is committed to encouraging supermarkets to donate unsold food to non-profit organizations. Lotman's and Justin's ideas coincided with each other. They both felt that the food that was rejected by the supermarket was a pity, so they decided to start a joint venture and open a supermarket that specializes in selling these "eliminated products."

  In May 2018, their first store opened in Murais, a small city more than ten kilometers north of Rennes. "We chose Brittany at the beginning, mainly because it is the largest agricultural area in France," Lotman said. Later, they opened stores in Western France and Paris. In June of this year, Lotman opened its 16th store in the center of Lille. The company plans to open 20 stores by the end of the year and 50 stores by 2024. These stores all use the trademark "We refuse to waste", and the manager of each store can own up to 30% of the shares of his own store, which is also a major feature of the company.

  When you walk into their supermarket, the shelves are often empty. Whatever the truck brings, the shelves will be everything. Consumers come here to consume, either for environmental protection or for price. "Our products are generally 20% to 25% cheaper than traditional supermarkets." Lotman said, "And on average, a store can save 35 tons of food a month!"


On the shelves of "We refuse to waste" supermarkets, you can often see standing signs with humorous words placed in front of the products by supermarket employees.


Today, two "We refuse to waste" supermarkets have affiliated restaurants. These restaurants will process the unsold ingredients in the supermarket, and then supply them to the dining customers.

| More flexible private label |


  "We refuse to waste" the supermarket chain draws on the experience of traditional supermarkets and also created its own brand, which currently has nearly 50 products. But compared with traditional supermarkets, the agreements between it and its suppliers are more flexible and looser. The biscuits are slightly burnt and squeezed into pieces when the bag is packed. It’s okay; there is no rule that the cheese must be heavy. The bag can be flexibly marked according to the actual weight of the cheese; the toast with mold marks will not be Turned away. "We accept 100% as the order." Lotman said.

  Of course, "We refuse to waste" supermarkets will also have times when food cannot be sold. In addition to donating these surplus food to charity, the founder also thought of another way out: open his own restaurant. Supermarkets use surplus food including meat as ingredients directly to the restaurant for processing to avoid waste. Currently in France, two "We refuse to waste" supermarkets have their own affiliated restaurants.


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