Use your loaf: French bakery tackles food waste through ‘upgraded ingredients’

Use your loaf: French bakery tackles food waste through ‘upgraded ingredients’
Every year 10m tons of food is wasted in France. The economic cost is a staggering €16bn a year. The environmental cost is also significant. French food waste produces 15.3m tonnes of CO2 each year, 3% of the country’s total carbon emissions.

Specialising in the production of organic breads in Loire-Atlantique, La Panetière des Hameaux hopes to help tackle the problem and has adopted a zero waste approach across its business.

The company, which operates two organic bakeries in Nantes and Pornic, has been trying to ‘upgrade’ bread that has gone stale and would otherwise be sent to landfill ‘for a long time’, co-manager Quentin Allonville told FoodNavigator.

La Panetière des Hameaux’s first efforts saw it working on a beer project ‘but we soon realized that we were going to be producing waste with the spent grain’, Allonville told FoodNavigator. The organic bakery wanted more.

Allonville initially struck on an idea to up-cycle stale bread into other baked goods at a bread fair in Paris. “I saw a company that allowed hard bread to be crushed very finely. It was then that the idea of being able to bake cookies began to take shape.”

It was at this time that Allonville met the Handicap Travail Solidarité (HTS), an association that the professional development of people with disabilities. “It was the start of a long collaboration…”

Le Pagachis: One smart cookie

Cookie brand Le Pagachis is the result of two years development work which was carried out by La Panetière des Hameaux in collaboration with HTS.

La Panetière des Hameaux started out with a set of ‘demanding’ specifications: the cookies must be tasty, 100% organic and designed with ingredients primarily of local origin.

The innovation team worked alongside ONIRIS, a national agro-food school located in Nantes that provided access to semi-industrial machines.

“Our bakery teams worked hand-in-hand with the HTS association teams and also our partner ESAT [‘establishment and service of assistance through work’] to define the best recipe,”​ Allonville explained. “Along the way, we wanted to involve private and professional customers as well as chefs in order to modify our recipe as we receive feedback, according to the AGILE method.”

Pagachis cookies use stale bread in their recipe - Pic - La Panetière des Hameaux

Pagachis cookies use stale bread in their recipe / Pic: La Panetière des Hameaux

By working with HTS and the ESAT, Le Pagachis cookies promote the integration of people with disabilities into the workplace.

The ESAT collects unsold bread and crushes it to make breadcrumbs. Then, from the recipe created and tested by the bakers of the Panetière des Hameaux, the ESAT workers prepare, transform and bake the cookies.

Allonville believes that a collaborative approach to innovation proved a great strength for La Panetière des Hameaux. “We gave our products to several chefs and a few potential customers [to sample]. The feedback was very good straight away.”

And the feedback from consumers has proven equally positive. Le Pagachis cookies are sold in through the bilk departments of Les Hameaux Bio stores. “We have risen to second place among the best-selling bulk cookies,”​ Allonville noted.

High hopes for scale-up opportunity

The business model is celebrating its one-year anniversary and, in that time, nearly 111 kg of bread has been saved from waste.

Allonville hopes this is just the beginning.

“Our ambition now is to build a semi-industrial biscuit factory, still in partnership with the HTS association and the ESATs around Nantes. Cookies and machines will always be fully controlled by workers with disabilities. Our ambition is to distribute this cookie nationally in bulk grocery stores, neighbourhood boutiques or specialty stores.”

The social entrepreneur also things there is scope to extend this approach to different foods that would otherwise be wasted. “We are already thinking about other [wasted] products to add more ‘upgraded ingredients’ in our recipes, in particular beer grains. So, the story comes full circle.”

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