Unsold shop fruit is turned into jam – and jobs

Looking like any other pot of jam on the Monoprix shelf, there is more to Re-Belle jam than meets the eye – each is made with fruit that has been recovered unsold from supermarkets and was otherwise destined for the bin.

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Confiture Re-Belle was set up by Colette Rapp and Adeline Girard in Romainville, Seine-Saint-Denis, to cut waste and help create jobs in the troubled Paris suburban department.

Each week the group collects 300kg of unsold fruit from Monoprix supermarkets and street markets in the Paris area and turns it into 1,500-2,000 pots of jam and sells it in shops, including Monoprix, in Ile-de-France to cut food miles.

Depending on the season they can save from one to two tonnes of fruit a month from going to landfill or incinerator and, more importantly for the founders, they have created jobs in the area and now employ six people and offer training to others to help them into the jobs market. Importantly, too, it is a success story for Seine-Saint-Denis, an area known for low employment and high crime.

Colette develops the jams and recipes with the varieties depending on what fruit is available. Costing €3.90 for a 230g jar, each jam is 100% natural and made with only sugar and 70% fruit, no additives. That means strawberry and orange, banana, lemon and clementine, melon and peach, melon and orange, and strawberry and pear.

The range extends to preserves such as courgette and grape; tomato, grape, apple and chilli; carrot, orange and cardamom but also spicy chutneys that include apple, lime and vanilla, banana and ginger, apple, grapefruit and cinnamon.

And all from fruit and veg that was destined for the bin.

Louise Le Duigou of Re-Belle said they had about 100 recipes they had tried and held regular tastings to see what worked best – with strawberry and clementine being the all-time favourite... but watermelon too watery and with too little taste.

“Re-Belle came out of work Colette was doing in 2015 with Disco Soupe, a group organising street events making meals from unsold vegetables to show how much was being wasted.

“She wanted to create a business and get people working then discovered a London group, Rubies in the Rubble, who were making chutneys from unsold vegetables and the idea grew.

“Professional kitchen training on a CAP course followed to learn about organisation and hygiene before starting to work on developing her jams.

“A bonus was meeting Alsace jam- maker Christine Ferber who gave tips on how to get consistent quality.”

Working with associations such as A Table Citoyens and Le Paysan Urbain she was able to find a professional kitchen to share at Baluchon, a ready-meal company in Romainville, which was vital for commercial production.

“Everything is done by hand, from the collecte to making the jam and filling the jars. We also do a lot of work in the background: such as finding new ways to use bananas, the fruit we get most of. Banana and ginger went down really well in public tastings but one to miss is banana and strawberry which Colette found too sweet.

“About half of all fruit that is produced is not eaten as supermarkets will sell only the best and even when bought, people may not eat it before it is over-ripe. We aim to give this ‘wasted’ fruit a second life as jam.”