Transforming our View of Plant-Based Desserts
It’s 5:30 am and, like every morning, Jean-Christophe Bernard is already in his workshop in the north of Marseille preparing another batch of his creamy desserts, which need to ferment for the whole day before they’re ready. Jean-Christophe’s aim? To make plant-based desserts taste good while using organic and locally-sourced ingredients.
Since his company MoRice is based in Marseille, the obvious starting point was Camargue rice, a grain that goes well with sweet flavors. “Tomorrow, if we open a factory on the other side of the world, we’ll use a local raw material,” he explains.
It took Jean-Christophe and his two partners a year and a half of research, development and trials before going to market in May 2018. Since then, MoRice’s sales network has been expanding continuously.
thecamp – Love at First Sight!
MoRice’s creators came to thecamp hoping it would provide a bridge to meet new clients and, above all, investors to assist them with their development. They were also keen to validate their business model, brand positioning and digital strategy. “It’s fantastic to have access to the mentors and have their feedback. When you’re in the process of making something, you’re in your bubble and you don’t have time to step back and take a critical view. Here, you have time to discuss things with people and consider their arguments.”
Since September, after leaving his tiny factory each morning, the entrepreneur has been heading for thecamp in Aix-en-Provence to join in the workshops, coaching sessions and other activities organized for the day by the Climb team. “Each day is different. There are group sessions and then individual sessions looking at issues facing each participant. For example, they put you in touch with a designer who looks at your packaging and gives you a few tips on how to improve your product, a service that often wouldn’t be available to young entrepreneurs like me.”
“Fast-tracking at its Best!”
Taking part in Climb has given MoRice access to the Crédit Agricole Alpes Provence’s address book, the bank quickly recognizing the project’s potential, and has put it in direct contact with some of thecamp’s founding partners who also have shown interest. Mentors and business angels who have tasted MoRice’s desserts are also crazy about the products, to such an extent that they are working to help the company launch them on the Canadian and US markets.
“Here, it’s really easy to talk to companies that are normally hard to meet. What’s more, you talk to the top bosses themselves, not the purchasing managers… That makes a big difference. It’s fast-tracking at its best! The other day, we were able to meet representatives of the Mulliez family (Auchan, Decathlon, Leroy Merlin…) and present our products. I’m also in talks with Sodexo to test my yogurts in one of their restaurants. There’s such a galaxy of big companies that, if you want to make the most of it, you only need to make the first move because they really do want to help you. The people who hang around startups have a different mentality, they’re youthful spirits, they have the same values as you."
MoRice’s co-founder was able to gain approval of the concept from key decision-makers and mentors and, consequently, he understood that he had to go even further. “At thecamp, I’ve been taught to be more ambitious, but without necessarily adopting a hyper-capitalist mindset. The market is booming, but we have to move quickly because plant-based products are becoming more mainstream and the big players are already getting in on the act.”
thecamp also enabled him to confirm that his initial intuition – setting up micro-factories everywhere using only local resources and his in-house technology – was the right one. “My added value is in the innovation, not necessarily the production. The rest will be up to the individual country.”
Results and Goodwill
It’s 4pm and time for Jean-Christophe to head back to pour his desserts into their individual containers. But his mind is already on coming back tomorrow…
“We’re very tight-knit here, it’s a little like university,” he says. “There’s a group cohesion that grows, we help each other a lot, question and congratulate each other. We’re all creative people, we’ve all set up our own businesses and we have the same difficulties. We can see what’s not right with someone else’s project in a flash. But it’s all in a spirit of goodwill. I’ve met people I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and that doesn’t happen every day!”
Since then, the brand has been in talks with major organic produce distributors that have provided it with another 50 retail outlets. Lastly, MoRice’s participation in the Salon International de l’Agriculture (SIAL) on the Crédit Agricole stand and its presence at the Protein Summit 2018 in Lille have greatly boosted the brand’s visibility.
To learn more about MoRice or to contact its team, visit MoRice's website.