05 Apr 2018
Essaouira, Morocco
Sustainable Food and Agriculture

“Smile, you are in Essaouira!” is the note seen at the entrance of Yoo Maroc, a hip and cozy restaurant at the center of Essaouira’s old town. And, so you would, upon savoring Yoo’s town-famous frozen yogurt, a growing trend towards favoring the environment in the old, coastal city.

In 2013, Italian couple Maurizio Pinto and Francesca Coppellotti started their small business, Yoo Maroc, after moving to the port city of Essaouira and adopting an all-vegetarian lifestyle. “Small towns are better suited for starting businesses so, we thought Essaouira would be the best for that and we like this town,” says Coppellotti. “There are tourists visiting the city 12 months a year so we’re never short of work.” Recently, Yoo Maroc reopened with the help of Paola Triches and is in the process of opening a Marrakesh branch.

Vegetarianism as a way of life and business:

YOO which means “Up” in Senegalese was picked as a name by Pinto, and was assumed by the couple as an upward way for vegetarianism in Essaouira. “Locals in Essaouira are not yet vegetarian and they come [here] for the smoothies or the frozen yogurt, but the rest of our customers are often tourists,” notes Coppellotti.

Neighboring towns are already familiar with the concept which makes acquiring fresh fruits and vegetables rather easier. “Almost everything we buy is local except for some fruits like pineapples are imported,” Coppellotti explains.

Coppellotti and Pinto were not always vegetarian. Before that, Francesca’s job was within the confines of an office in the famous Italian cheese city, Parma. They started by getting a press juicer at home which soon turned into a habit of eating vegetarian food. “We like fruits and vegetables and we believe that [it] is a healthy choice to do without meat,” says Coppellotti. “We still, however, use tuna since some of our customers did not cut out fish entirely from their daily regimen.”

A number of studies have been conducted deducing that less meat consumption means a significant decrease in the human carbon footprint.

Yoo’s products between juices and recycling as a concept:

“I think Yoo is something different and unique as part of Morocco’s culinary scape,” says Sarah Kane, an Australian chef and a nomad who’s visiting Essaouira for the third time. “The fresh produce and healthy food taste great, and I’m hooked on their frozen yogurt.”

Whether it’s detoxing juices or finely and environment-mindedly made meals, Yoo Maroc’s recycling manifests itself in the shop’s interior and upcycled utensils. “We try to recycle everything. When we first started we bought recycled things only — the chairs, the tables and so on,” says Coppellotti. “In Morocco, you have to recycle and we like to give new life to things.”

Recycling and the elimination of using plastics are no novelty in Morocco. The country banned all use of plastic bags in July 2016, after being the world’s second-biggest plastic bag consumer after the United States.

To follow suit, Yoo Maroc is keeping plastics usage at the bare minimum, and taking their concept to Marrakesh to open a similar restaurant under the Yoo Maroc logo. “We would like to expand in Morocco; in many towns,” stated Coppellotti, stressing that Yoo is a family where every member of her small team is involved.

“We have something in common which is advocating the natural and healthy way of living,” says Rachid Jaafari, Founder of Terre d’eveil Maroc, a holistic center for wellbeing in the city of Essaouira, and Yoo Maroc’s partner in Marrakesh. “Our center already offers herbal teas and healthy food and that’s where a partnership comes to benefit both of us.”

Between commitment and pride, Yoo Maroc strives on the passion of the small community of Essaouira and Yoo. Some time soon even, the logo would gain a momentum as a significant trendsetter in Morocco.




Follow Yoo Maroc’s updates through this link, their Facebook page or instagram.

Photos: Courtesy of Yoo Maroc.

Eman is an editor, and a finance and startup ecosystem journalist.Eman El-Sherbiny
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