Day by Day has been growing since 2013, when Didier Onraita and his business partner, David Sutrat, decided to promote bulk buying in the food industry. A vast range of products are available in their shops, making it easier for urbanites to reduce their use of plastic and buy in more convenient quantities. From pasta, coffee or flour to laundry detergent, shampoo bars and wooden toothbrushes, the project responds to the growing desire to live a more responsible lifestyle in big cities. Above all, its presence is helping to raise awareness around the consequences of food waste and mass packaging.
Why did you decide to found Day by Day?
I started my career working in food distribution. Then I worked for a supplier and in 1999 I became a sales advisor. In 2013 I founded My Retail Box, a company that creates retail solutions while promoting sustainable consumption. Our first project involved promoting bulk, and that’s how Day by Day was born. I had been concerned about the issue of food waste, and waste in general, for a long time. Consumer culture has made us waste an enormous amount of resources.
So it’s about changing our current food system?
Yes. Antoine Lavoisier said: “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”. We live in a closed system, and its renewal time must be respected. Day by Day is a simple solution, but it’s not easy to put in place. We need to take people’s lifestyles into account. For about fifty years now, consumption in the West has become very individualistic. Families don’t sit down at the table for meals as often as they used to, which means sharing food is no longer an essential part of family life. This happened because family members started to spend more time outside the home. Women started to work and families struggled to find the time for having meals together. Products were divided into smaller portions for individual meals, resulting in huge amounts of packaging.
I’ve had this in mind since 2003, when I decided we had to start selling in bulk, looking for a way that customers could buy in small quantities if they needed to, but without all the packaging or at least in packaging that could be recycled again and again. In 2013, after being in the back of my mind for 10 years, this idea finally came to life.
Who are your customers?
Our customers have changed since we started. At the beginning it was young people and old people. Both ends of the spectrum. Young people wanted to move away from hyperconsumption and older people were already familiar with bulk. Also, these two groups tend to either live alone or in couples, so buying in small quantities is more convenient. We also found that our initial customers tended to be on average more educated. This doesn’t mean they were necessarily richer, but they were more likely to have gone to university and therefore were more likely to want to regain control over their own consumption.
Today, I like to think that we have propelled bulk foods, because it’s popping up everywhere. It’s more established, and we see our client base expanding both into families and broader age groups as a whole. We also see people who have different levels of education, who have reached the conclusion that they also want to take control over their own consumption. It’s evolving and becoming more democratic.
Why is this happening now?
Because the number of bulk shops is growing and, as it becomes normalised, people are not afraid to try it. However, bulk foods still only represents less than 3% of consumption.
Some supermarkets like Monoprix or Franprix are beginning to introduce products in bulk too.
Yes, but only four or five different products. They are usually things like dry fruit, cereal, biscuits, nuts… Occasionaly you might find flour and sugar.
How can people be encouraged to buy bulk?
Firstly, by increasing the number of places where it is available. Secondly, by increasing the number of products on offer. So far we’ve built a system that allows us to offer a broad range of products, but there are still a lot missing and that needs to change. Juice, jam, milk and those kinds of products are still difficult to supply. And thirdly, big international food brands need to get involved because they have gained the trust of a large part of consumers. For someone with limited resources, who can’t afford to try new products, buying bulk means taking a risk. However, if big brands are sold in bulk, people will be more inclined to try it.
But bulk means no packaging. Do you think big brands will adapt even if that means having to give up packaging?
The essence of a brand’s goodwill is, by definition, the brand itself. Not the actual product, but the brand’s value. Reducing the amount of packaging means reducing the brand’s visibility. Therefore, for practical reasons, bulk will never represent the majority of products. However, there will be great repercussions for the way brands handle the issue of waste and packaging. Just like organic products have had repercussions for conventional agriculture, which is becoming more and more ethical thanks to the presence of organic products, even if they still only represent 4% of consumption. So bulk products will inevitably have an influence on the market but will end up representing only 5%. Enough so that big brands can’t afford to ignore it anymore.
Do all the Day by Day shops have the same products?
The system we have developed requires a large range of products. While the biggest bulk distributors have 13 to 14 product categories, we work with 30 different ones so we can cover the majority of our customers’ needs, so they can change the way they do their shopping. For this to be possible in small shops we had to centralise the supplies. Actually, the essence of trade is transport and logistics. The consumer has an important role, but the movement of goods is central. We wanted to make these products available in convenient locations, and needed to mutualise supply to do this, so all of our shops now stock the same products.
Where are your suppliers based?
We have 80 suppliers: one Portuguese, one Italian, one Belgian, and the rest are all based in France.
With Day by Day, you are making bulk products available in city centres. What are your objectives for the future?
At the moment we have 35 stores in 30 cities, and we hope to have between 40 and 50 by the end of the year, but it depends on the locations on offer. We want the franchise owners to earn a proper living. They take risks and get their families involved so we’re very careful to find venues in good locations but that are not too expensive. That’s not necessarily easy so we’re not expanding as fast as we should be. We receive around 1,200 applications per year, but only a handful of those could be carried through.
In the future we would like to have three to four shops in the biggest French cities like Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg, etc. So our long term objective is to have between 100 and 200 shops in France.