La Consigne by Valrhona
An Environmentally Friendly Approach to Reuse
In 2019, with several of its partners and their professional customers, Valrhona launched an innovative scheme that would bulk-deliver chocolate fèves in washable, reusable containers. Returning used packaging is nothing new, so the initiative really marks a return to common sense.
However, very few contemporary industrial and food service operators working outside of the beverage sector have reverted to it because it is such a challenge. By committing to it as an initiative, Valrhona started a movement and reconfirmed its determination to make a positive impact on the world.
The idea is to improve the customer experience by reimagining the way we package products, taking a circular approach to reuse and assuming full responsibility for our waste. With this initiative, Valrhona wants to power a collective movement that unites the entire industry’s creators within a circular economy, the ultimate aim being to create a more ethical gastronomical world.
This complex, ambitious project takes an “open innovation” approach to step-by-step experiments with customers and various partners, with financial support from ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency).
The objective is to hit upon a model that overcomes three challenges:
- Reducing operations’ environmental footprint
- Improving the customer experience
- Guaranteeing the project’s economic viability
The process involves delivering chocolate fèves in 100% recyclable plastic containers that have been made in Europe. These are then collected, washed and reused for new deliveries.
The aim behind the initial trialis to assess the concept’s logistical viability and check that our customers are happy with receiving their goods in reusable containers.
Six months after the trial run was launched, it is now time to get a sense of how things are going.
The experiment focused on two products, Guanaja and Jivara, both in their 6kg format. Two different types of containers have been tested so that we can identify the best option before the scheme is rolled out more widely.
Our results from December 2020 to late April 2021: Nearly 1 ton of Valrhona chocolate has been bulk-delivered!
While all this has been happening, an independent agency has been supporting Valrhona to assess the environmental impact of our new circular model as compared with the previous, much more linear single-use packaging system. “Lifecycle analysis” is being used to identify any unexpected impacts and keep us from simply shifting environmental problems from one stage of a product’s life or geographical area to another. This analysis already showed that our reusable 6kg container has much less of an impact than the 3kg plastic bag.
A scheme warmly welcomed by professionals
The scheme’s first participants, all based in Lyon, have expressed their satisfaction and even pride at being part of the change and contributing to a practical, environmentally friendly initiative. They are ready and willing to pursue it and co-create the next chapter in the story with Valrhona.
I’ve found it a lot more practical than bags and it’s a lot better for the environment - Christophe Rasneur, Pâtisserie Les Gasteliers
It’s good for the planet and doesn’t take up any more of my time - Bruno Saladino, Bruno Saladino Chocolatier
I’m interested in avoiding waste and being part of an initiative alongside my industry colleagues and Valrhona - Robert Adam de Beaumais, Maison Buisson
Plans for a gradual rollout in France and Europe
Because the trial run has been such a success, Valrhona plans to roll out the scheme on a bigger scale from June 2021.
Returnable Packaging from Valrhona is being expanded to include 7 chocolate products:
- 4 dark chocolates: Guanaja, Caraïbe, Extra-Bitter, Satilia Noire
- 2 milk chocolates: Jivara, Bitter lacté
- 1 white chocolate: Ivoire
Initially, Valrhona will organize logistics for 100 pastry chefs, chocolatiers and restaurateurs from the Lyon region. Each will have their own container that they can return to us for refills.
This new phase should enable us to prove the solution’s environmental benefits and economic viability, and we aim to deliver 24 tons of chocolate, saving the equivalent of 1 ton of packaging.
Starting in 2022, we will be offering a few other customers in the Rhône-Alpes region access to La Consigne by Valrhona. To scale up this project, we are continuing to explore different avenues (pooling, optimizing container use, comparing circular economy models) before we can make “La Consigne by Valrhona” available to as many people as possible. In the long run, our ambition is to extend the scheme across France, Europe and any other potential areas where there is strong demand from professionals.
It is vital that we take it step by step, as Returnable Packaging by Valrhona will require us to make profound changes in the way we work. This will include finding the right logistics partners to meet customers’ needs and guarantee the best possible experience.