Danone invests in food waste start-up Phenix: ‘We can reinvent tomorrow’s food system’
Paris-based Phenix was founded in 2014 with the ambition of tackling the negative economic, environmental and ethical implications of food waste.
In France, approximately 10m tons of food are wasted annually while eight million people are exposed to food insecurity. French Environment and Energy Management Agency Ademe estimates that the economic losses related to food waste total €16bn in the country. Food waste also places strain on natural resources and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
To address the problem, the French government launched a National Pact to Combat Food Waste in 2015 and committed to halving the amount of food reaching landfill by 2025. National legislation has targeted waste at the retail level in particular.
The Garot Law requires supermarkets to accept food that would have previously been rejected at source, such as ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables. It also requires retailers of a certain size to enter into donation agreements with charitable organisations to ensure that food is used for human consumption rather than thrown away where possible. Lower down the priority list, the regulation requires food waste to be used for animal feed or energy production.
Phenix’s solution sits at the sweet spot of this drive. The B Corp certified company uses technological and digital solutions to connect retailers with various food banks, charitable associations or the animal feed industry.
Connecting the links
Phenix has developed a portfolio of solutions to end food waste: ranging from donations to NGOs and food banks, to discounted sales via its consumer facing application, engagement with farmers for animal feeding and direct sales in its 'Nous Anti-Gaspi' stores.
Phenix’s approach recognises that, in developed markets like France, food waste usually occurs due to a lack of coordination between different parts of the supply chain and consumer behaviour.
Phenix’s solutions are specifically designed for each link in the food chain - from producers to manufacturers, retailers, food services and restaurants. Its customers include the likes of Coca Cola, Carrefour, Intermarche, E. Leclerc and Franprix.
Since 2014, Phenix claims to have saved more than 100m meals from being wasted through its network linking industry, NGOs and ‘committed citizens’. And the company says it has been able to double its impact every year. In 2019 alone, the company said it saved a total of 40m meals and helped some of its partners to achieve zero food waste.
Phenix wants to fast-track this positive momentum and, to that end, the group has secured funding from Danone’s venture capital arm.
“Our ambition is that in a few years, wasting food and products will not be acceptable and waste reduction practices will become the simple and effective norm,” co-founder and president Jean Moreau explained.
While the financial details of this transaction have not been disclosed, Danone joins fellow Phenix investors EFT Partners, Sofiouest and INCO who took part on a €15m financing round in 2018.
The fresh funds will enable Phenix to extend its position as a leader in the waste reduction sector through the expansion of its consumer facing mobile application as well as its B2B #TechForGood solution for food and beverage industry players.
“With Danone Manifesto Ventures’ support, we can invent tomorrow’s food system in an environmentally respectful and socially just manner,” Moreau enthused.
Global ambitions: 'Waste has no borders'
The support of Danone's venture capital arm goes beyond a purely commercial relationship and Moreau believes that the group’s iconic brands can be leveraged to help challenge and change consumer behaviour around food waste.
“Beyond their financial investment, we are bringing on board a renowned company with iconic brands, and together we will lead a movement aimed at changing consumer habits and reducing food waste all along the value chain, from producers to consumers.
“Danone Manifesto Ventures will be a critical strategic partner to promote new waste practices globally.”
Noting that ‘waste has no borders’, Phenix is working towards a worldwide solution. The start-up already has a presence in five countries with 27 local branches.
By supporting Phenix, Danone hopes its collaboration efforts will help resolve what is becoming an existential crisis for the food sector.
“Food waste reduction is one of the major challenges that companies, NGOs, governments and consumers need to address collectively to promote a more sustainable and ethical food system,” Laurent Marcel, CEO of Danone Manifesto Ventures, noted.
“Danone has made this challenge a priority for many years through local and global initiatives. We are happy to partner with the talented Phenix team, which keeps inventing innovative solutions to solve this important issue.”