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Montreal’s Loop is on a mission to end food waste in Canada

Company partners with grocers and manufacturers to recycle rejected produce
loop founder
David Côté and Julie Poitras-Saulnier. Photography courtesy Loop

Ending food waste in Canada seems like a lofty wish, especially as a purported 58% of Canada’s food supply is wasted or lost annually, according to food rescue organization Second Harvest. But Loop Mission founders David Côté and Julie Poitras-Saulnier are making incredible strides towards fulfilling that goal by partnering with grocers and manufactures to recycle rejected fruits and vegetables into tasty food product. 

Since the Montreal-based entrepreneurs launched their first beverage line eight years ago, their initiatives have so far rescued 20,825 tonnes of food and prevented 13,011 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. What started with cold-pressed juices and smoothies has evolved into a product line that includes wellness shots, probiotic sodas, sparkling iced teas, beers and gin — all made from foods that would have been otherwise wasted.

READ: Shoppers turn to ‘imperfect produce’ as grocery prices rise

“Grocers can call us and tell us to come take their produce overstock and we do,” says Côté. “Sobeys called me three weeks ago with three vans of strawberries to pick up and Metro called with sweet potatoes — without collaboration we can’t solve this problem.”

But it doesn’t stop there. The company, which employs some 70 staff, has also leveraged its expertise to create LOOP Synergies — a line of ingredients from rejected food that food processors can integrate into their own diverse products. As one of two grand prize winners of the federal government’s Food Waste Reduction Challenge (Business Models Stream) earlier this year, Loop is receiving $1.5 million to grow and scale this part of its business.

Poitras-Saulnier says the idea for Loop Synergies came about after numerous queries from people wanting to integrate excess food waste into products, but finding it too complicated in terms of logistics and operations. “So, we decided to do it for them,” she says. This means a large yogurt company, for example, could use recycled strawberry puree from Loop in their products or a soup manufacturer could use Loop’s pureed vegetable mix. “We make it simple for them so there is no reason why they wouldn’t do it.”

Loop products
Photography courtesy Loop

In being able to tackle food waste, Côté says there needs to be full transparency around wastage in the first place. “Produce warehouses, grocers and even manufacturers don’t want people to know about waste because they’re afraid it will give them a bad reputation,” he says. “But if we don’t open the books and let the world know what we’re wasting, nobody can find the solution.”

In an ideal scenario, he says all the big grocery chains would collaborate to create a platform where they could share their overages and buy supplies from each other as needed. “If ever possible, I feel that would save money for everyone,” says Côté.

READ: Peko Produce finds solution for 'peculiar' fruit and vegetables

While the growing use of artificial intelligence and other technologies that better monitor supply needs will certainly help in reducing food waste, Poitras-Saulnier says all food industry players, including grocers, need to think of themselves as part of a larger ecosystem. “Right now, we work in silos and don’t have those collaborations and synergies needed yet…but we can find ways so that everything can be reused in a cycle.”

Proving that the appetite to reduce food waste is greater than ever, Côté points to the many calls he receives from food industry companies around the world asking about how to replicate the Loop model. “Nobody is doing what we do, at the scale we are doing it,” he says. “The question today is how do we export this model in a fast way because there is so much waste.”

To truly eradicate food waste in Canada, he says Loop’s products alone will never be enough either. “For this we need everybody’s volume,” he says.

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