Eat (well!) for three times less

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 baby potatoes in large baskets. She holds out a gloved hand to me, admitting that formal meetings make her a little nervous…

Posted at 11:00 a.m.

I reassure her: I can be blamed for a lot of things, but “being too formal” has never been a problem.

She notices that I take a look at the food placed behind her.

“The harvest was particularly good this morning. I can’t wait for the customers to arrive, they’re going to freak out! »

The 33-year-old founded the company Panier B last June. Its customers are parents—especially mothers—students, athletes, people who like to eat well and who, like just about everyone else, are currently dealing with inflation. This afternoon, they will come and pick up the basket they pre-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, cantaloupes, carrots and plums, I see no difference between what will be in the baskets and what I buy at regular price. The tomatoes I have in front of me are a bit poked, it’s true, but it’s really nothing serious. And the 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 liter of cream of oats. 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, everyone can also leave 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 grocery store, estimates Audrey Tessier.

I check the expiration dates and the “best before” indications… 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 natural food grocery store. It was the beginning of a dazzling passion for food. She will be a clerk, then a buyer, manager, sales manager and representative. She will even found a first company: Zen.


Audrey Tessier examines her treasures…

When she was producing almond bites, eight years ago, Audrey Tessier shared her premises with other “young entrepreneurs who were a bit lost”. One day, they gave her a punnet of organic strawberries.

Audrey was surprised. It must have cost them dearly, right?

“Don’t worry, it’s B quality!” »

This is how she learned that food distributors must regularly dispose of products that are still good for consumption. These foods are classified B because of their appearance, a packaging problem or because there is a rotten one in the batch, for example…

A few days later, she arrived at a vending machine and came out with enough fruit and vegetables to fill her car. As it was too much for one woman, she suggested to a dozen friends to 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 lbs of carrots, you better find friends for them. splitter “warns Audrey Tessier.

She eventually transformed this activity into a “nomadic basket” business.

Every Tuesday, she waits for customers of Panier B at the Jardin de la Pépinière. On Fridays, she goes to the Frigo des Élans, a food bank in the east of Montreal, where she takes advantage of the premises in exchange for volunteer hours.

For now, Panier B attracts between 30 and 50 customers per week, which translates into half a ton of fruits and vegetables saved weekly. Audrey Tessier would like to possibly increase this figure by landing in other areas of the island.

At the same time, it offers services to businesses. Tomorrow, she will go find 200 cases of B-grade peppers, at the request of a local company that wants to turn them into sauce and fight against food waste.

Besides, let’s talk about it! I have the impression that the fight against waste is often associated with people who lack means. That we sometimes refrain from subscribing to projects such as Panier B by telling ourselves that there are always people who need low-cost food more than us…

Audrey Tessier confirms that I’m not entirely in the field: “It’s a mentality that needs 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 everything 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 walk hand-in-hand in the path of our anxiety, this is significant.

And the future of Basket B?

“I just want my business to grow organically while respecting its 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 customers by name… Grow with a community, not just a clientele. »

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