Montreal is thriving with innovative ideas to fight against food waste. A dévorer is the new player in town. It offers special food kits to buy at your local supermarket to prevent products from perishing.
Chloe, an electrical engineer, did not plan on becoming an entrepreneur in the food industry and yet, after her MBA, she decided that she wanted to do something useful. Knowing that every Canadian family throws $28 worth of food every day (yes, that’s $1500 per year), food waste was a perfect challenge to tackle. But A dévorer has another social aspect: it helps retailers avoid losses while strengthening the link between retailers and consumers.
After improving her project in startup incubators (Entreprism 2016 at HEC Montreal) and pitching it in entrepreneurship competitions (Mouvement Novae 2018), A dévorer was ready to conquer Montreal.
Not just another meal kit
Yes, meal kits have become quite trendy but most of them are based on a delivery model: you order a kit of fresh vegetables or fresh products and get delivered every week. A dévorer sells kits in supermarkets so that retailers can benefit from the deal.
It’s not a meal kit, it’s an “anti-food-waste kit”.
The process is very simple: when doing your grocery at your local supermarket, you can find A dévorer kits with all the products required to cook a specific meal in less than 30 minutes. Kits are packed in a minimalist environment-friendly recycled material.
Recipes are focused towards healthier eating habits. They will change regularly and adapt to consumers’ preferences and feedback. Kits are offered for a recipe for 4 people and always include a vegetarian option.
Changing perceptions, innovating habits
“We want to get consumers involved in the process: they can solve a real environmental problem in a recreational way.”
It is common to consider perishable products that are close to the expiration date as “old” and less fresh. But they are just ready to eat and even better: they are discounted! The kit system allows to make these products more attractive and to show how cooking can be a fun, quick and easy process.
Instead of choosing ready-to-eat meals, you can eat fresh products and spend 30 minutes of your time in your kitchen, discovering a new recipe.
A pilot project in Montreal
A dévorer has managed to secure a partnership with one of the leaders in Canada food retail: Provigo. As of April 23, you can find the first line of kits at Provigo Eric Boivin, near metro Crémazie.
Last Thursday, if you were walking on Monk boulevard in Montreal and passed by the beautiful church on number 5959, you would never have imagined what was happening inside… 100 Montreal startups were presenting their products and services to media, corporations, influencers and the general public.
In an old church transformed into Theatre Paradoxe, you could discover various innovative ventures in the food, travel, services, marketing, design or fashion industry. This 3rd edition of the Grand Messe was organized by Montréal inc and presented by Bell. Startups were pitching their ideas in confessionals to the media who symbolically awarded a benediction to their favorite emerging startup.
Innovation Montreal’s team was on the ground and discovered 5 innovative products:
Brwski, the first in-store digital beerologist that simplifies how grocery customers discover beer in-store. They invented a unique machine to help beginners and beer geeks look for the perfect beer in store.
Sagafrika, offering the first range of African frozen dishes cooked in Quebec. We met with Sandra, the founder, and tasted a delicious cassava leaves sauce from Congo.
Perla Paletas, bringing typical healthy Mexican ice-cream and Popsicle to Canada. Made with real fruits and no additive, they offer an original healthy snack for summer days. We tasted their lime and cucumber Popsicle and their chocolat and raspberry frozen yogurt. Perla has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule to extend her product line.
Reunion D Sens
With the same healthy concerns in mind, we got to admire a bicycle made of wood, Picolo Velo. The wooden bike frames have been designed and built in Montreal with social, environmental concerns. We also discovered that the same sustainable concern was shared by corporations : Reunion D Sens offers companies two innovative locations in the heart of Montreal to organise meetings. These locations offer a unique experience that stimulates creation and helps to lower stress levels and increase confidence.
Stay tuned for more in depth stories on some of these innovative startups!
Fintech comprises all kinds of innovations that aim to compete with traditional financial methods and answer the financial needs of populations. It is currently booming in Canada, as Millennials as starting to earn a living and are not satisfied with what traditional banks have to offer.
We have already touched upon fintech on Innovation Montreal: the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchain to finance projects with a social impact (Impak Finance), or Hardbacon’s app that allow users to become better self-directed investors.
Today we present Mylo: a mobile app that automatically rounds up every purchase you make and invests the spare change.
Fintech on a social mission
What drives Mylo’s founders from the beginning is to make saving and investing accessible for all Canadians and especially for Millennials.
To use Mylo, you do not need any knowledge in finance. Mylo works through a partnership with Tactex Asset Management advisors who invest your money in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).
Basically, the more you spend, the more you save… simple, right? If you buy a $3.60 coffee through your debit or credit card, Mylo will automatically round your purchase to $4.00 and invest the extra $0.40.
Going even further, Mylo is not just a tool for investment, it gives recommendations that are customized and personalized. Using artificial intelligence, the app helps its clients optimize important financial decisions such as insurance coverage, interest payments, travel purchases…
“We’re focused on building the next generation of innovative technology, using AI in conjunction with financial data, to help Canadians improve all aspectsof their financial lives.”
The financial model is very attractive: there is a monthly fee of $1 to get access to the app. The customized recommendations are completely free but if clients implement the recommendations, the Mylo team then earns a success fee from their partners.
Phil is less than 30 but has been into the Canadian entrepreneurial community for a while. He successively launched and sold two ventures after graduating from Concordia University and ended up joining a Montreal investment fund in 2015: Ferst Capital Partners. This is when he started thinking of ways to democratize financial investment decisions. Mylo emerged from his market study in 2016.
Liam joined the adventure later in 2017. With over 25 years of expertise in finance and technology, he had founded Tactico Inc., the parent company of Tactex Asset Management, an investment firm that manages client-focused equity portfolios.
Mylo acquired Tactex gaining more credibility in the process: a relatively new fintech actor had enough power for acquiring a team of portfolio advisers that manages over $110 million in client assets.
From pitching to seed investing, a tremendous growth
Mylo participated to the iconic TV show Dragon’s Den and got a great deal from three of the investors but as months past and as they worked on a beta version, the team managed to secure a strategic offer that made more sense for our company. They raised $2.65-million in seed financing lead by Desjardins Capital which allowed them to officially launch on the App store.
Today, the startup wants to offer more than just an app. On International Women’s Day, Mylo released a report analyzing the gap between women and men when it comes to saving and investing and offering recommendations to reduce the gap and innovate investing habits.
Montreal is considered as an international hub for artificial intelligence, a lab for innovation. What are the urban implications of this reputation? What is the social impact of artificial intelligence in the city? We have discussed all these issues yesterday at Newcities roundtable on the subject.
At a time when technology and big data are blurring the limits of privacy, when academic research is driven by economic priorities, how can AI and innovation in general positively impact the lives of populations?
Cybersecurity and avoiding data deserts
The main social concern with AI applied to the city is to avoid data deserts – areas where certain groups do not have data regularly collected about them. And a prerequisite to answer this concern is to educate citizens to the relevance and benefits of sharing their data in a well-defined framework.
Damien Silès is the Head of the Quartier de l’Innovation, an experimental laboratory supported by the four Montreal universities, the Federal and Provincial government and corporate partners. Its mission is to experiment with urban innovations in downtown Montreal.
We want to break down silos and make this neighbourhood a collective lab where private, public and academic actors collaborate. Only then can we truly protect data.
Artificial intelligence by and for the community
There are already great initiatives to improve the social and ethical impacts of artificial intelligence. Last November, a dedicated conference was organized by AI Alliance Impact (AIIA) and headed by Valentine Goddard. AI on a social mission presented best practices of companies applying AI in sectors like mental health, education, social work (Myelin was part of them).
During Newcities event, Valentine lead a roundtable on the subject with participants from various backgrounds: Cisco, IBM, HEC Montreal, the French Chamber of Commerce…
Today, we are beyond technological challenges when it comes to AI. Challenges are ethical. We need to present innovations as solutions to concrete problems
AI can be a real solution to transportation issues: location-based search engines like Google Maps can allow to make predictions so that bus drivers spend less time on focusing on their route and more time on strengthening the social link with passengers.
When it comes to artificial intelligence, there is a fundamental gap between researchers and the general public. This gap is more than ever visible in the city.
For people to adopt AI tools, it is important to educate them – not explaining the algorithms but showing how data can impact their daily lives.
If your mission goes beyond selling your product, you will sell more products. That was the first lesson learnt from listening to David Côté, VP of Loop Juice. He discussed entrepreneurship, alive food, fermentation, health, circular economy and innovation at HEC Montréal…
Trekking, traveling, food experimenting
David has always been interested in health, nature and plants. When his father wanted him to follow his footsteps and become a doctor, David was yearning for more – more passion.
He had a revelation when trekking the Appalachian mountains and eating candy bars to get his daily dose of energy. He was surrounded by natural beauty but he was eating unhealthy transformed products. He decided to travel and test all kinds of food habits from fasting in a cave in Hawaii, to experimenting raw food habits. Eventually, after 8 years of traveling and working on organic farms throughout the world, he came back to Montreal with the goal of changing the world.
Entrepreneurship, a way to change the world
“I learned to be an entrepreneur. Starting a venture was not my original idea, but it became the most relevant means to deal with the issue of healthy food and eco-friendly products.”
With his friend Mathieu Gallant, David was experimenting with new food habits taken from his travels in Hawaii and California: making vegan no-bake energy balls and brewing Kombucha in the kitchen. He started delivering lunch boxes made exclusively with raw food to companies and decided to create two startups – a restaurant to promote raw-foodism (Crudessence) and the first Quebec Kombucha company (RISE Kombucha)
“With Crudessence, we wanted to innovate eating habits and give back to people the ability of better feeding themselves.”
In 2016, after 8 years of managing two impact-driven ventures, David decided to sell his shares. His mission was accomplished. He had democratised the fundamentals of raw-foodism and provided an alternative to traditional soft drinks.
More than a serial entrepreneur, a serial world-changer
45% of all the fruits and vegetables produced in the world are wasted
David and Julie decided to open a cold-pressed juice company to fight against food waste. They met Frédéric Monette from Courchesne Larose, a historical player in the Canadian fruits and vegetables industry. When they found out that the company was throwing 16 tons of fruits and vegetables every day, their mind was set and LOOP Juices was born.
Looping around a circular economy
Some might say that it is a project “dans l’air du temps”, that circular economy is nothing but a green washing concept. Maybe. But what David wants to prove that it is possible to provide valuable solutions to a problem.
Everything in LOOP is targeted towards recycling and reusing food waste: one bottle of juice is made out of 1.5 kg of unused fruits and vegetables. But the circular process goes even further: The residual but still nutritious high-fiber pulp is then reused by a pet food company, Wilder & Harrier.
Loop is revolutionizing the value chain by making it circular. It is also providing a model for conscious capitalism.
Limitless innovation possibilities
Starting next week, LOOP is launching a partnership with Sobeys to blend cold-press juices exclusively with products from the giant food retailers. In two months, they will launch their first beer, brewed with dry unsold bread. They are also thinking of making milk out of brewers’ spent grain and flavored water out of leftover essential oils…
Sebastien Bureau was with RISE Kombucha, the first Kombucha producing company in Quebec, since their first steps as VP of Research and Development. Today, he is spreading the word about this new innovative drink and creating fermented products through a unique food science consulting startup – Mannanova.
The challenge of creating a new market
With a BA in microbiology and biochemistry, Sebastien Bureau is a natural born innovator. He started home brewing Kombucha in the early 2000s when it was still completely unknown in Canada.
By the way do you know what kombucha is? Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that is lightly sweetened, flavored and fizzy. It is produced through the fermentation of tea using Scoby, a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”.
This fermentation process was what fascinated Sebastien the most. Co-founder of the first Quebec Kombucha company, RISE Kombucha as VP of Research and Development, he decided, after 6 years, to focus on a new mission: developing innovative procedures and helping other in the development, preparation and execution of Kombucha and other fermented products. Mannanova was born.
Spreading the word about fermentation
Sebastien wanted to educate the general public throughout the world. He started on his own back in 2014 and created a team in 2016 with Eduardo and Thomas, Debora and Nathaly.
What makes this entrepreneurial adventure promising is that it answers a current interest throughout the western world: “From sauerkraut to kefir, miso to jun, the world of fermented food is rich and varied – and increasingly popular” (interesting article on the subject). Often associated with health benefits, fermented food is on the rise.
Eduardo, Vice President and business developer, is convinced that there are true opportunities in Quebec and British Columbia but also in emerging markets like Brazil (where people are already health conscious and curious about fermented food) or even in Africa. Kombucha making can even be a social development tool in countries like Haiti: the process is simple and easily accessible to economically disadvantaged populations.
A community-centered venture
Another scope of Mannanova’s mission is to experiment with Kombucha production. Their partnership with MaBrasserie, a cooperative brewery, since Spring 2017 is one way of implementing innovations: every week, Mannanova team creates a new innovative flavor of Kombucha, served on tap in the microbrewery. Flavors are inspired by the season: on the menu this Winter you might have tasted the Pine & Christmas tree flavor (brewed with actual fir branches), Apple and Cinnamon or more recently the Kombucha Fuego, a balanced mix of spicy and sour.
Beer lovers also find an interest in Kombucha because the brewing processes are very similar. Sour ales and brett beers. In fact, brett is short for Brettanomyces, which is the yeast used in Kombucha fermentation. In smaller doses, it is considered as a “beer sourer” and can produce wet hay “horse blanket” notes.
The team has also developed a new base material called Manna-K: this highly concentrated Kombucha is an ingredient that solves most of the problems kombucha producers face every day: alcohol control, lack of space, time and money:
Discover their consultation, education and production activities and go to MaBrasserie to taste one of their latest inventions.
Today, Renaud Gouin has two microbreweries in Montreal, he has been one of the key industry innovators in the past decade, seeing the potential for hoppy beers. How did he become a brewer and entrepreneur? We will have a look at his journey, from HEC Montreal to Jukebox and Avant-Garde.
At first, Renaud didn’t like beer. Because beers were unflavored, standardised, industrial. When he discovered some Belgian beers, he realised that beer could be fruity with almost a non-existent bitterness.
During his studies at HEC Montreal he started home-brewing and discovered that he could actually brew beers that were above industry averages. He also found out that the community of craft beer lovers was a passionate and dynamic one, ready to share their knowledge and experience through social platforms like the MontreAlers on Facebook. Still an amateur, Renaud accepted a position at Desjardins as a Personal Finance Advisor and decided to explore his new passion further.
A potential for innovation
There is such a diversity of flavors in craft beers: fruity, sour, even salty flavors! Some hops like Citra can create flavors of tropical fruits, litchi, passion fruit, without adding any fruit in the brew! Some yeasts like Brettanomyces can give a sour taste of hay.
In Quebec, in the early 2010s, over 50 types of beers where still not accessible. There was one particular type that was still not adopted by industrial and medium-sized breweries: that of American Pale Ales and Indian Pale Ales. Their intense bitterness made everyone wince. But Renaud was already creating his own.
When Renaud the corporate vision of life, he decided to take a leap in entrepreneurship but he knew that he could not invest in the heavy and expensive equipment and open his own brewery. He had read a lot about contract brewing and how it succeeded in the US. Without equity, this innovation in manufacturing industry clearly eased the transition to being an entrepreneur for home brewers.
Renaud pitched his idea to Brasseurs de Montreal. At that time, they had never tried the model but as they were not into creating similar products, they decided to go for it.
Introducing hoppy beers in Quebec
Renaud analysed the market and clearly saw an opportunity to catch:
“Unibroue had concentrated their efforts on creating Belgian-style brews while McAuslan was more traditionally focused on English styles but hoppy beers were new to Quebec”
He also wanted to innovate the branding and offer a disrupting image to his beers: unlike industrial or regionally focused images used by the other players, Renaud wanted to offer a whole new world: in 2012, he created his first microbrewery, Jukebox, around the world of rock music. The hoppy flavor of each of the products is as electrical as the guitar on the labels.
If amateurs and curious gourmets liked his new products, Renaud was still working part-time at Desjardins because he needed cash flow.
“Contract brewing was great for distribution and increasing sales revenues but it did not include representation and promotion which is a crucial part.”
Innovating vs. creating profits
With Jukebox steadily working, Renaud wanted to create new products and innovate:
“One thing is to be focused on growth but I am more interested in creativity, passion and innovation and contract brewing is a perfect tool for testing the market and testing new flavors”
Renaud had met with Shawn Duriez, an ex-brewer from McAuslan. They decided to create new innovative beers together and co-founded Avant-Garde. Shawn’s experience on the ground and Renaud’s entrepreneurial experience made them complementary.
Again, timing was of the essence: in 2016, they capitalised on another innovation in the industry: Julien Niquet and David Cayer, co-founders of Glutenberg, were launching Oshlag Brewery, and offering the first contract brewing service for craft breweries. Renaud and Shawn jumped at the opportunity.
With the high popularity of IPAs, they wanted to offer more classical beers while exploring new flavors. They focused their exploration on barrel-aged beers: the Porter Imperial Bourbon, for example, has a vanilla bourbon nose, mixed with coffee, caramel, even banana flavors. They also disrupt classical recipes with the Nocture Coco, an Imperial Porter made with an unconventional ingredient: coconut!