Social Enterprise enVie employs long-term unemployed to produce fresh soups from surplus vegetables

Brussels, 6 September 2018 - Thanks to the social enterprise enVie, Belgians are now able to enjoy delicious soups that are also full of social commitment: each bottle of soup is produced in Brussels using surpluses of fresh Belgian vegetables, by a motivated team of employees who - thanks to the project - have been given the opportunity to rejoin the labour market after a long period of unemployment. For Naomi Smith, who runs enVie, this is a dream come true: launching a food project that not only tackles food waste but also long-term unemployment. Five highly committed partners helped get enVie off the ground: McCain Belgium, Colruyt Group, Randstad Group and REO Veiling, the Belgian vegetable and fruit cooperation. The fifth partner, the Belgian Federation of Food Banks, provides this project with support and expertise. Three different soups are now on sale in OKay and OKay Compact stores. A further four new recipes will be introduced in the shops depending on the season.

The values of the enVie project  

Did you know that each day, a large percentage of the vegetables grown in Belgium ends up as waste, instead of on our plates, even though it’s top quality? enVie is fighting against this kind of food waste; to create its delicious and high-quality soups, enVie uses only vegetable surpluses or vegetables that do not meet the correct shape or size requirements and are therefore ‘thrown away’.

Supporting the long-term unemployed

The enVie-project is also a real springboard to sustainable employment: thanks to a company training programme, enVie reintegrates people who have been long-term unemployed into the labour market, by offering them stable and worthwhile jobs. enVie employees are recruited by Randstad and are employed for one year. For a period of 12 months, each employee receives thorough training and gets the necessary practical experience to become a professional 'production worker in the food industry', according to the description used by the SFMQ (Service Francophone des Métiers et Qualifications).

To achieve this, enVie has developed an internal training programme that covers the daily preparation of soups, and also provides additional training in the field of food safety and hygiene, operating specialised machines, leadership skills as well as personal development.

It is our ambition to help these employees in their search to find a stable job for the future after completing one year of training and employment. Once again, it is the Randstad Group that supports these employees in their search for a new job. In its first year, enVie has already recruited four people. The aim is to recruit two to three people each year; to train them for one year in the production kitchen and then to help them find a new, stable job.

Offering solutions for the surplus vegetables

An important objective of enVie is to fight against food waste. enVie's soups contain up to 40 to 55% fresh vegetables and they are therefore sold in the fresh soup section. The soups are ‘ready to eat’ and have the highest content of fresh vegetables in the market: two litres of soup contain no less than 1 kg of fresh vegetables. They are 100% natural, without additives or colourants. Each bottle of soup is prepared in enVie's kitchens in Brussels, using fresh vegetables grown in Belgium, which would otherwise not be used for human consumption (and used as animal feed).

However, they are all fresh Belgian quality vegetables that have come straight from the field, but that are not sold because there is already a surplus on the market or because they do not meet the usual criteria (size, colour, etc.). During its first year, enVie expects to save 40 tonnes of vegetables from being wasted. The aim is that in 2 years time, it will be possible to process 100 tonnes of vegetables. Currently, enVie's range of soups consists of 3 different recipes: 6-vegetable soup, tomato and basil soup and carrot soup.

From today, they are available in the 127 OKay and 6 OKay Compact stores of the Colruyt Group in Belgium. During the next few months, 4 other recipes will be added, all using seasonal vegetables.

Four founding partners and one ethical partner

A project such as enVie needs a lot of willpower and motivation, but also the necessary financial resources and support of committed partners. That is why four large companies joined Naomi Smith in order to start enVie. For nearly two years now, they have provided enVie with the necessary financial and structural support.

"I have been very lucky to count on the support of these four partners; without them the enVie project would never have existed", says Naomi. "In addition to their financial support, they also offer their knowledge and know-how on how to continue this wonderful adventure".

McCain, the global market leader in potato products offers enVie strategic and logistical support. "In general, we want to improve the daily lives of communities living in precarious situations, locally but also on the other side of the world. The idea behind this is that anyone can help, each in their own way. For example, we lead projects in France, Greece, Columbia and Morocco, always within the context of social enterprises," says William Jarijch, Managing Director of McCain Belgium. Katrin Sano: "As an employee, I am very proud that the McCain family has the courage to invest in a Belgian social enterprise. It makes me especially proud to work for McCain."

Colruyt Group offers enVie a solid and extensive distribution network, giving the soups a high level of exposure and making it easy for consumers to buy them. "Sustainable entrepreneurship is firmly engrained in the Colruyt Group's DNA: we take this into account in everything we do and want to play our social role in various areas. The cooperation with enVie fits perfectly with this ambition: finding solutions for food waste is and remains an important issue for us and it provides extra added-value when it also has a social angle, as in this case. We are proud that we can support enVie with our knowledge in the field of retail, for instance, and by offering the soups under the Boni Selection label to OKay and OKay Compact customers. Thanks to this initiative, these customers also have the opportunity to contribute to a very good cause", says Stefan Goethaert, Managing Director of Colruyt Group Fine Food.

Randstad Group plays a key role in putting together the work teams for enVie. "The jobs are presented to the long-term unemployed who in turn become part of the labour market again. This is a fantastic social project that we are happy to support" says Herman Nijns, CEO Randstad Group BeLux.

REO Veiling provides the surpluses of fresh vegetables from Belgian growers. These are mainly vegetables that are especially suitable for making soup (courgettes, leeks, celery, tomatoes, etc.). "As a grower's cooperation, we believe in the absolute added value of cooperation in order to tackle issues such as sustainability and food waste. Thanks to targeted cooperation with our various partners, we can ensure valorisation of food waste from fruit and vegetable surpluses, signifying added value to us as producers, to the social enterprise and ultimately to the consumer as well." Dominiek Keersebilck, commercial director REO Veiling.

The Belgian Federation of Food Banks supports enVie as an ethical partner and as such, will use all its expertise as a social actor for the benefit of the project. The enVie project is closely linked to the mission of the Belgian Food Banks, particularly the fight against hunger and food waste, as well as the reintegration of people living in poverty thanks to social employment.

Since 2016, when the idea behind enVie took shape, Naomi Smith has been working with these five partners on a daily basis to expand this innovative social enterprise. " enVie is a fantastic social project, both in terms of its objectives and its implementation. It is the result of the willpower of people and companies who have responded actively to the real problems of our society. I would very much like to see enVie creating awareness amongst Belgians and of course, I hope they like our soups! Every bottle sold helps fight against food waste and long-term unemployment. By buying a bottle of soup, you can show your solidarity with others. "


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