When I arrive at the Jardin de la Pépinière, a magnificent public space in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, Audrey Tessier is distributing a row of small potatoes in large baskets. She holds out a gloved hand to me and admits that formal meetings make her a little nervous…
Posted yesterday at 11:00 am
I reassure her: I can be blamed for many things, but “being too formal” has never been a problem.
She notices that I glance at the food placed behind her.
“The harvest was particularly good this morning. I can’t wait for the customers to arrive, they are going to freak out! »
The 33-year-old founded the company Panier B last June. His clients are parents, especially mothers, students, athletes, people who like to eat well and who, like almost everyone, are currently dealing with inflation. This afternoon, they will come to pick up the basket they ordered 48 hours ago.
The products offered vary from week to week, but one constant remains: they are mostly organic and, above all, they are sold at a discount because they do not correspond to grocery store standards.
No matter how much I scan the baby potatoes, lettuce, mushrooms, mangoes, melons, carrots, and plums, I don’t see any difference between what will be in the baskets and what I buy at regular price. The tomatoes in front of me are a little punctured, it’s true, but it’s nothing serious. And cauliflowers are almost blindingly white. Perfect.
Whether they choose the $30 basket or the $45 basket, customers will receive all of these fruits and vegetables, plus a quart of oatmeal cream. Then they will have choices to make. In front of me are juices, purees, protein bars, fudges, couscous, chips, and coconut flour. Depending on the amount paid, each one can also walk away with one or more units of each product.
We are talking about baskets that would be worth between $80 and $120, if they were found in the supermarket, estimates Audrey Tessier.
I check expiration dates and “best before” statements… Nothing is expired or even close to the guaranteed freshness deadline. I don’t understand ! Where does all this come from?
Distributors of fruits, vegetables and natural products, answers the entrepreneur before explaining to me the beginning of her adventure.
After studying communication and a detour to teaching, Audrey Tessier was hired by a health food store. It was the beginning of a dazzling passion for food. She will be an employee, then a buyer, manager, sales manager and representative. She will even found a first company: Zen.
When she produced almond bites eight years ago, Audrey Tessier shared her facilities with other “young entrepreneurs who were a bit lost.” One day, she was given a basket of organic strawberries.
Audrey was surprised. She must have cost them dearly, right?
“Don’t worry, it’s B quality!” »
This is how he learned that food distributors must regularly discard products that are still good for consumption. These foods are classified as B because of their appearance, because of a packaging problem or because there is a rotten one in the batch, for example…
A few days later, he arrived at a vending machine and walked out with enough fruits and vegetables to fill his car. Since she was too much for one woman, she suggested a dozen of her friends share the food she had just bought for next to nothing…
The tradition has lasted for years! And, yes, you can absolutely take inspiration from it.
“But if you come home with 50 pounds of carrots, you better find friends for them. dissident ”, warns Audrey Tessier.
He eventually transformed this activity into a “canasta nomad” business.
Every Tuesday, he waits for Panier B customers in the Jardin de la Pépinière. On Fridays he goes to the Frigo des Élans, a food bank in East Montreal, where he takes advantage of the location in exchange for volunteer hours.
For now, Panier B attracts between 30 and 50 customers a week, which translates to half a ton of fruit and vegetables saved weekly. Audrey Tessier would possibly like to increase this figure by landing in other areas of the island.
At the same time, it offers services to companies. Tomorrow he will go to get 200 boxes of grade B peppers, at the request of a local company that wants to turn them into sauce and fight against food waste.
Also, let’s talk about it! I have the impression that the fight against waste is often associated with people who lack means. That sometimes we refrain from subscribing to projects like Panier B telling us that there are always people who need cheap food more than us…
Audrey Tessier confirms that I am not quite in the field: “It is a mentality that has to be worked on! You have to tell yourself that there is abundance and give yourself the right to take advantage of it. »
For her, this is where it all makes sense. With the foods she offers, natural, often organic and allergen-free, she fights against waste, but she also hopes to feed others with care.
At a time when the cost of living and the climate crisis go hand in hand in the way of our anxiety, this is significant.
And the future of Basket B?
“I just want my business to grow organically while respecting their values. My business is the fight against food waste. I don’t want to buy “better quality” food to please people. And I want to be able to always know my clients by name… To grow with a community, not just a clientele. »