Confiture ReBelle on a mission to tackle food waste
Conficture ReBelle is a company born out of the Disco Soup movement.
In 2012, some people associated with the Slow Food Youth Movement Deutschland collected discarded fruits and vegetables from a market in Germany and made soup, whilst listening to disco music. Two months later, another Disco Soup party was held in France. Here was an idea whose time had come. Today, thousands of Disco Soup events have been held throughout Europe and as far afield as Australia and South Korea.
ReBelle takes its inspiration from the principles of the Disco Soup cause, Le Duigou explained.
“The foundation of the Conficture ReBelle model came from the movement 'Disco Soupe' (or Disco Soup in English). It is a movement that empowers citizens to tackle food waste by making festive events. In other words, the word and actions are given to the citizens. Together, the people who participate in the Disco Soup [events] make soups, smoothies, and jams from surplus fruits and vegetables.
“Colette [Rapp], the co-founder of the ReBelle project, comes from this movement and this is where she discovered how jars could be a very a good way of preserving products (and that surplus fruits were very tasty for jams).”
Turning waste into a windfall
According to the company, 45% of locally produced fruit and vegetables are wasted in France. ReBelle wants to bring this figure down.
Inspired by UK company Rubies in the Rubble, the group has established a structured and repeatable model to deliver on this ambition.
Working in collaboration with French retailer Monoprix, ReBelle collects unsold produce from supermarkets and processes them into jams. “We have a partnership with them: They give us the unsold fruits that we collect in each supermarket and we sell them [our jams] in the same supermarkets. We are also distributed in some gourmet groceries stores, coffee shops, some hotels and so on.
“The mission of ReBelle is to make high-quality jams by re-evaluating the image of the surplus fruits. Our mission is to reduce food-waste by creating local jobs while we produce jams that are tasty and high-quality products.”
Le Duigou said that the company has grown “pretty quickly” since it was established in January 2015. ReBelle formed its partnership with Monoprix in September 2016.
ReBelle produces three product lines: One combining two fruits - such as raspberry and pear or red berries and apple, one combining fruits and spices - such as apple, lemon and vanilla, and one combining fruits and vegetables such as tomato that, Le Duigou explained are “salty-sweet jams perfect with cheese”.
While the company focuses on three lines, the number of SKUs it manufactures is much higher – “more than 60 today” – Le Duigou revealed. “We could have an unlimited number of [SKUs] because we make our jams according to the fruits that we collect and it usually changes. It could be each time a surprise for us, but also for the future consumers.”
The company operates around Paris. ReBelle is committed to shortening the food supply chain and intends to keep its operations local.
“We collect, sort and cook our jams locally in the suburbs of Paris and it is our aim to stay in a local and keep short [supply chain] for all the steps of our project.”
ReBelle believes production must be maintained at a local level and – while the group does see the opportunity to export its model – this is not currently a priority, Le Duigou revealed. “We do not expect to expand it abroad for the moment, our main goal is to develop a long-lasting and sustainable model.”
While geographic expansion is not currently on the cards, ReBelle could look to expand its product line-up to broaden its food waste collection efforts. “We would like to extend our product lines to include vegetable confits, a line that could be chutneys and so on. The aim behind this diversification is to integrate more vegetables and to propose savoury alternatives for the French consumers.”
Le Duigou believes that French consumers are responding well to both ReBelle’s message and product offering. “People are very conscious of the importance of the anti food-waste issue. They encourage us in our actions and the reactions that we get are mostly that it’s a very beautiful project (in the values that we stand for) and that our jams are good.”
While the company does experience some “prejudice” against “unsold fruit” - which Le Duigou said people wrongly believe are “not good anymore” - ReBelle combats this through tastings and consumer engagement activities.
“We participate in many events that are made to build awareness of what can be made in order to fight against food waste. We explain our approach, we make tastings of jams… We want to have a positive impact on the environment so we usually share social initiatives that the same aims.”