05 Jul 2018
Casablanca, Morocco
Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management

In Morocco, there are hundreds of artisan businesses creating products such as olive and argan oil, organic produce, and chemical-free cosmetics. But marketing and selling those products are a challenge, especially when competing with larger manufacturers. These tiny businesses have no consistent way of getting their products into the hands of people who want to buy them. That’s where Epicerie Verte steps in, providing a marketplace for these artisans, and making it easy for eco-conscious customers to find the goods they need.

Amine Slimani was working as a management consultant and strategist in Morocco when he stumbled upon the project that would change his life. He started consulting for OCP Foundation, which is run by OPC Group, — the largest corporation in Morocco. The goal of the project was helping small entrepreneurs with their strategy rather than just handing them money.

“For one and a half years, I visited six main provinces in Morocco and talked with hundreds of entrepreneurs,” says Slimani. “I led a team of five consultants and senior consultants for a period of over a year to study the entrepreneurship ecosystems. We conducted more than 500 interviews and six focus groups with local entrepreneurs, and we also drafted more than 40 project business plans. Most of the entrepreneurs were working in the agriculture and food industry. I saw many interesting products, and noticed their main weakness was the inability to sell their products. So, I got this idea to create a marketplace that would help these businesses reach their clientele.”

So, he decided to start a website called Epicerie Verte (green groceries), which allows producers to list their products and sell directly to consumers — a concept similar to Amazon.

How Epicerie Verte works:

Browsing EpicerieVerte.ma reveals a menagerie of products. There are herbal teas, groceries, superfoods, cosmetics, and hair products. Epicerie Verte collects a small fee from producers who wish to use the site as a marketplace, then offers warehousing, distribution and sometimes photography for these small artisans.

“We wanted to distribute these products in an eco-friendly way, so we use electric tricycles to deliver the products around Casablanca,” says Slimani. “In the coming months, we’ll offer this delivery method in other cities, and also to other companies who want to use eco-friendly transportation methods.”

Slimani says they don’t just pick these merchants at random, they use a stringent procedure to vet the artisans to make sure they’re truly selling natural and organic products.

“There are many different levels of merchants here in Morocco and not all of them are necessarily trustworthy or have products worth putting on the website,” Slimani says, “We meet the merchants and then go visit their farms and [production] to make sure they are selling what they say they’re selling.”

Epicerie Verte also partners with Enactus and OCP Foundation to identify potential merchants. “We have three main categories on the website,” says Slimani. “First, there are traditional Moroccan products like olive oil and honey. The second category [is] trendy products like quinoa, chia seeds, soy milk and almond milk. The third category is natural cosmetics because people are starting to get worried about what kind of chemicals are in soaps and shampoos.”

Just a few months after the website’s launch, business is booming, with 30 vendors advertising their products through the site, and 500 people buying.

Organic products and products is a growing trend in Morocco. One doctor, Mohammed Ouhssine, told Yabildi that “the human body reacts positively to all kinds of food that have been grown free of chemicals and genetic manipulation because they build and nurture cells, unlike junk food that has a negative effect on our health, making us consume more and gain weight.”

Epicerie Verte’s plans for the future:

So far, Slimani has funded Epicerie Verte himself, but is looking for partnerships that would allow his company to grow and expand.

“In Morocco, funding takes a bit of time,” says Slimani. “My strategy was to first go to the market to prove we have something that is working and worthy of interest, and now I’ll start looking at funding to get to the next stage in my business.”

The outlook is good for Epicerie Verte. The company won the Moroccan Green Logistics Project of The Year Award for its innovative use of electric tricycles to deliver products.

“In the future, we plan to acquire more tricycles to grow our business in green transportation,” says Slimani. “Also, we want to expand our website marketplace. Right now, most of our clients are individuals, but we’ve had a lot of demand from hotels and markets that are interested in ordering through our website. We also want to start selling Moroccan products to Europe, Asia, and the United States.”

Slimani, who has a master’s degree in business management from ESCP Europe, felt like he wasn’t making a positive difference in people’s lives through his career in consulting, and is glad he made the switch towards running his own business.

“I wanted to do something other than making powerpoint presentations and creating slides,” he says. “I wanted to do something with meaning. I also wanted to do something that helps the environment because, in this day and age, most scientists agree there is climate change, and we have to do something about it. A lot of people are getting sick with autoimmune diseases, things we didn’t have in Morocco 30 years ago when people were eating more natural foods. I think we can have both a good economic model and also be environmentally responsible.”

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Epicerie Verte through their website and Facebook page.

Photos: Courtesy of Epicerie Verte.

Kristin Hanes is a journalist who has a passion for the environment, sustainability, and science. She loves telling stories about people who are making a real difference in the world.Kristin Hanes
Moroccan eco-concious customers can now find organic products via this portal | The Switchers
Epicerie Verte Organic Food & Agriculture
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