"There is demand for sustainable eating"

Sophie André, CEO and founder of Elysia
Sophie is a very impressive young entrepreneur who launched her sustainable catering business in 2016. She had no experience in catering and she had just arrived in London. Wow! 

This is the interview Sophie gave me for the first issue of Zero Waste London News which was released on October 17th 2019. 

You buy food surplus from food producers. What is surplus food?
We source fruit and vegetables with imperfections but also cheese wheels that have been tasted during the maturing process. Cheesemongers remove a sample to make sure the batch is ready to be sold, the wheel may end up with a hole and some cracks. We also buy brown crab meat. It is much more abundant than white meat and rarely consumed.

How many tonnes of food are you able to recover? 
A minimum of 75% of the ingredients we source is from surplus. Over the last two years we saved over 8 tonnes of food.

What happens to the rest of the surplus? Do companies sell it at a discounted price? 
It is usually very difficult for the producers to sell the surplus as the produce have aesthetic imperfections. It’s also the case that stockage and/or harvesting cost more than the income they generate. Food producers would always try to find solutions to reduce waste. For instance, some cheesemongers grate imperfect cheddar cheese. Saying that, not all cheese can be grated. Some farmers can count on charities but they need surplus to be collected everyday. So there is still a portion of food that is wasted.

How is your business doing?
The business is doing very well. We cater for events from 40 to 400 guests in London and now in the countryside as well. The events are sometimes organised by social businesses or charities who deal with people who are already aware of food waste issues. We also have corporate and private clients. The clients and their guests are happy to learn about the story of the ingredients and contribute to reducing food waste. There is a real demand for sustainable eating.

What kind of containers are you using to serve food?
We serve canapés, i.e. cocktail foodon wooden boards. The portions are easy to prepare and it is very unlikely that they are not consumed.
For lunches, we display the food in medium-size bamboo sharing bowls. It helps the guests take the portion they want. If necessary, we can refill the bowls. It helps to control the portions per guest and reduce waste. Waste is normally very common where you organise a buffet. 
We do not use single use plastic. We provide compostable plates and cutlery and bins for compostable items. We then take back the bins to our warehouse for our recycling company to collect them to produce compost.

How do you deliver food? 
We deliver on our cargo bike for cocktails up to 100 guests. For bigger events, we have a partnership with an electric taxi company.