Julie Poitras-Saulnier and David Côté met while going in circles on a ferris wheel at a Montreal business conference, but say it’s only a coincidence that their company is named Loop Mission.
It’s actually named Loop because its goal is to promote the circular economy in the food industry; to find ways to reduce waste by repurposing surplus food. But it’s still fun to think about the double meaning. “It sounds like a magic story, but that’s actually how we met,” says Côté. It was only after they named the company that the couple realized “we actually met in a loop.”
Montreal-based Loop Mission sells cold- pressed juices made from produce that would otherwise go to landfills. Available in eight varieties, the juices are sold at about 2,000 points of sale in every province at grocers such as Sobeys, Loblaw, Metro, Safeway and Whole Foods Market.
The company also sells wellness “shots” with cold-pressed juice and ingredients like turmeric and cayenne; sour beer made from discarded bread; and gin using surplus potato scraps. And the company has just launched soaps made with surplus oil from a fast-food chain as well as a “milkshake” beer containing byproducts from the dairy industry.
When they first met, Côté had already launched Rise Kombucha, a fermented tea company, and vegan restaurant chain Crudessence, which now sells ready-to-eat fare. And Poitras-Saulnier, after completing a master’s degree in environment and sustainability at the Université de Montréal, had worked as a sustainability specialist at Keurig Canada as well as at organic products firm Prana, creating programs to improve their environmental impacts.
“We were both talking about starting a project together,” Côté says. “I wasn’t necessarily happy having those two businesses to manage. I was becoming more of a manager than a creator and I felt that my strengths were not put at the highest level.” As for Poitras-Saulnier, her dream was to create a business that sold products that had a positive impact on the environment.
Enter Frédéric Monette, vice-president of operations at Courchesne Larose, a century old, family-run fruit and vegetable distributor in Eastern Canada. In 2016, Monette called the couple and told them “we throw away 16 tons of fruits and vegetables every single day, 365 days a year,” Côté recalls. “That was kind of the aha moment where we knew that we had something there.”
As of February, according to its website, Loop had saved 3,467 tons of produce and 914,240 slices of bread, and avoided 2,792 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Loop Mission is 50% owned by Courchesne Larose and 50% by Poitras-Saulnier and Côté. Loop gets its juice supplies at a reduced price using Courchesne Larose’s overstock, while the distributor saves on landfill costs. Loop’s juice factory is also set up at Courchesne Larose’s warehouse in Anjou, Que.
Although Loop began as a juice company, the founders quickly realized they could do much more. “We can actually make so many products because there is so much waste out there,” Côté says.
With the juices selling well, Quebec grocery chains were quick to stock Loop Beer, made with unsold bread from St-Méthode Bakery. “When Metro learned that we were launching a beer, they didn’t wait for the branding to see it; they just listed it,” Côté says. That’s because “most banners actually want to have a good story to tell their consumers.” The gin, made with excess potatoes from Krispy Kernels’ Yum Yum chips brand, also quickly made it on the shelves at the SAQ, Quebec’s liquor board.
Loop recently also partnered with Quebec dairy cooperative Agropur to create Loop Milkshake, a creamy “milkshake” beer made with permeate, a byproduct from cheese production. “It’s a very interesting liquid because it’s full of minerals, calcium, magnesium, but it’s just thrown away,” explains Poitras-Saulnier.
Interestingly, part of Loop’s own waste is also used by other companies. Some of the fibre and pulp from juicing goes to make vegan dog treats for Montreal-based pet food company Wilder Harrier, for instance. “For us that’s really the vision of the circular economy: to connect businesses together to ensure the concept of waste doesn’t exist,” says Poitras-Saulnier.
Loop, which now has about 30 employees, plans to start exporting to the United States this year and Europe in 2021. The soap and gin will likely be exported from Montreal while the beer and juice will be made abroad, working with different produce suppliers to use their own overstock.
“We don’t actually look for overstock,” Côté says. “People call us and it’s always people that heard of us from the media. Every time somebody calls us with a good volume of overstock, we end up finding a solution for it.”
Adds Poitras-Saulnier: “It’s fun because we see that we can make a difference. We adapt to the market and adapt to what’s being wasted.”