A zero waste grocery store that intends to democratize bulk to the people of Saumur
L’Echo des Bocaux, located in Saumur near the Saint-Pierre church, is a bulk grocery store. This 50m² zero waste grocery store offers about 1,200 products mainly in bulk format. With a collection of food references (⅔ of the products) and non-food references (⅓ of the products), l’Echo des Bocaux places itself as a local business and intends to combine a zero-waste mode of consumption with the creation of a proximity link between consumers and local producers. The founder, Marion, makes it a point of honor to establish a real contact with the customer to advise and guide him. The idea is to return to the place of the grocery store that we could find in the time of our grandparents.
Sustainable sourcing through a work of sourcing for the products sold in the grocery store. There are three selection criteria (triptych to be made) which are bulk, local and organic. To be sold in the grocery store, each product must meet at least two criteria (not all products are suitable for bulk sales)
Economy of functionality through the use of jars. The jars used are all recycled. Contrary to other bulk grocery stores, all types of jars are accepted: there is no particular size. The team is responsible for checking the condition of the jar and cleaning it. If the store needs jars, a request is made in the newsletter sent every week. Customers then come in to donate their jars. This system of recovery seems to be successful since the store does not need to buy glass jars or set up a deposit system for the containers.
Responsible consumption through the democratization of zero waste, local consumption and products that meet production criteria.
Extension of the life span of the containers: we no longer use a single packaging but reusable glass jars.
To listen to Marion present the project, you can watch the video at the bottom of the article!
L’Echo des Bocaux is a bulk grocery store opened since 2018 in the center of Saumur from Monday to Saturday, in a former armory. This project, created by Marion, follows a trip of the founder in South America. During this trip, she realized the proximity between producers and consumers. When she returned to France, she realized that this link was extinct. With this in mind, Marion opened a bulk grocery store that combines everyday commerce with bulk, local and organic consumption accessible to all. Her goal since its opening is to offer all the products of everyday life, from food to non-food, from the kitchen to the bathroom. In 2019, she will be joined by Ariane and in 2020 by Chloé. Since its opening, l’Echo des Bocaux has been a member of the interprofessional association of bulk sales: Réseau Vrac. This association, whose ambition is to structure and accompany the bulk sector, is a real support for the grocery store. Marion can rely on the organization to answer her questions (legal, regulatory or logistic) and to direct her to other professionals of the sector.
Réseau Vrac, the interprofessional association for the development of bulk sales 
Réseau Vrac is the only professional organization dedicated to the democratization of bulk sales in France. This association structures and accelerates the development of this new market to give access to a sustainable and responsible consumption. Réseau Vrac federates and supports more than 1700 professionals of the sector, distributors, producers, suppliers and project leaders in France and worldwide. The association has three missions:
To structure and professionalize the bulk market with positive impact lobbying actions, the creation of trade guides, training in regulations and good hygiene practices, working groups to develop practices to be adopted by the entire sector on given themes
Develop the bulk sector and a virtuous ecosystem with the development of tools, services, discussions and partnerships to accelerate the projects and activities of member professionals:
Encourage the switch to bulk with the creation of content to guide citizens in their bulk approach, participation in key events to meet all audiences and help cities and regions to support them in developing bulk in their territories.
You can find all the bulk grocery stores near you: https://reseauvrac.org/epiceries-vrac/
Dry goods, cheese and solid cosmetics are sold in glass jars. The products are thus presented in their raw state.
As far as household products are concerned, they are subject to strict standards. They are sold in plastic containers and each container is specific to a product: one cannot use a container that has contained foodstuffs to put in household products (and vice versa).
Since its creation in 2018, the saumuroise grocery store has not implemented a deposit for glass jars. The material balance is allowed thanks to the contribution of empty jars by customers. If there is a need for jars, the team lets it be known in the weekly newsletter and the customers bring back glass jars afterwards. This system seems to have worked, as the store has never had a shortage of jars. The lack of a deposit means that there are no additional costs to shopping in bulk. This system makes bulk more accessible to a novice.
The operation of the grocery store is simple and is explained in 5 steps at the entrance of the shop:
L’Echo des Bocaux aims to be an everyday grocery store. Warm and welcoming, this shop allows everyone to discover and learn about zero waste consumption. The team guides novices to these practices by advising them on the quantities to take and the containers to use. It also helps customers to help themselves to avoid the apprehension of shopping in bulk. The integration of the “consumer” variable in the grocery store equation allows us to offer products that are adequate to the needs of our customers
The choice of products is made on the bulk, but also organic and/or local according to a triptych model. The goal is to find everything you need on a daily basis. With more than 1,200 references including ⅔ of food products, l’Echo des Bocaux offer local, national and ultra national products. Thus, local sourcing represents 60% of the grocery store’s suppliers. The products offered in the store have been chosen to meet the needs of the people of Saumur. We find all the usual products from the kitchen to the bathroom. From the beginning, a real reflection was set up to think about the problems on the life cycle of the product (from the supplier to the consumer) and all the criteria that the product had to fulfill to be proposed in the grocery store. The team also tries to propose new products that are as close as possible to the customers’ expectations. They are included in the selection of products by tasting for example the potential new products.
The zero waste initiative of Echo des Bocaux helps to fight against the production of waste and single-use packaging. The development of this type of approach makes it possible to democratize the reuse of containers and the end of single-use plastic-based packaging.
The development of this project allows the development of the economic fabric of Saumur by relying on local producers.
The will to weave a link with the people of Saumur and to integrate the grocery store as a warm and friendly place makes it a real asset. Moreover, the team tries to include the customers’ opinion in the selection of new products.
Today, there are three types of bulk grocery stores:
Marion, the founder, built her business plan based on a bulk grocery store opened by a friend in Liege. When the business opened, the customers were below the estimates in her business plan. The grocery store was able to establish itself in the local economic fabric and has seen its frequentation increase over time. According to Marion, one of the criteria that made her project successful was that she started alone.
The grocery store will soon expand with an additional 30m². This new surface will allow us to increase the range of products and to offer more novelties to our customers. In June 2021, the team will grow with a new person joining the grocery store.