Meet Pyxo, a French startup that has been thinking a lot about single-use plastic food packaging for three years. The company wants to offer a service that makes it easy and cost effective to use reusable food storage containers on a large scale.
The idea for Pyxo comes from a fair in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. Right next to the food stalls, the trash cans were overflowing with soda cups, clamshell hamburger containers, and various single-use food packaging.
As a first step, the company began working with the French corporate catering services company Sodexo. They worked with them to replace the plastic cups and make everything reusable. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the shift to remote working, Pyxo has started looking for other potential clients.
They started working with Foodles, Popchef, and other food technology companies that offer connected refrigerators with packed lunches and snacks.
But Pyxo’s biggest market opportunity comes from a regulatory change. In July 2020, the French parliament adopted an anti-waste law with drastic changes. Restaurants must switch to reusable food containers by January 2023.
This means that fast food chains will not be able to use paper and plastic cups, disposable clamshell boxes, etc. Pyxo is already working with an unnamed fast food chain in France to help them switch to reusable packaging.
The startup has created a sort of reusable food container market that connects all companies in the sector. When a fast food restaurant buys a batch of containers, they all come with a QR code or NFC chip to track them everywhere.
Restaurants can subcontract cleaning to specialized companies who can give you a batch of clean containers when they come to pick up the containers for the day. These outsourcing companies also scan containers, cups and whatever else they clean.
On top of that, customers could also order take out food and take it home in reusable containers. They could use an app to find the nearest collection point – it doesn’t have to be the restaurant where you originally ordered your food. Pyxo is thinking about gamification and small deposits to encourage returns.
“Our vision is that it’s an infrastructure industry,” co-founder and CEO Benjamin Peri told me. Pyxo plans to build a network that works exactly like the power grid. Ultimately, the startup believes there will be a dense network of restaurants, collection points and cleaning centers.
Fast food chains could help jumpstart the industry as a single customer owns a ton of restaurants across the country. They could encourage other actors to participate in the network, Pyxo acting as network operator.
The business is just getting started as there are only a few restaurants actively using Pyxo at the moment. But the startup has raised $ 7.9 million (7 million euros) from Eurazeo, FiveSeasons Ventures and others.
As of January 1, 2023, the startup plans to work with 2,000 points of sale in the restaurant sector alone. Pyxo still expects to work with food technology companies and corporate catering services, but they would represent a smaller part of the business. With today’s round table, the company plans to recruit 70 additional employees.