This 100% organic, bulk and independent grocery store, at 120 rue des Pyrénées, promotes sustainable consumption through good humor and its associative commitments
A low brick building occupies the corner of rue des Pyrénées and rue Vitruve – just before the latter dips under the Petite Ceinture. Here, in the shadow of a modern apartment block, Toutbon still shines thanks to its sunny yellow front and its cheerful logo of a cherub flying on a bee. This independent organic grocery store also spreads its light across the neighborhood with food redistribution and composting initiatives.
“It was important for us to find our place here, to be a real local business, to have human relationships in a city where there are fewer and fewer. Next door you’re greeted by a security guard and an automatic cash register. For us, that’s not what business is about,” says Romain Grospiron, who founded Toutbon with Aude Bardaine. In 2019, these two cousins bored with their corporate jobs were looking to “return to simple things with a direct impact”. Convinced by organic farming and zero waste, they decided to open a store that was not only 100% organic and specialized in bulk but also independent from major chains and active in its neighborhood. The Ecocert certified Toutbon opened in September 2019 in a former superette, at 120 Rue des Pyrénées, an airy 200m2 space with two floors.
“It was natural for us to set up shop in this neighborhood because Aude and I knew it, and we knew that people here would understand our proposal,” says Romain, who lived on rue Alexandre Dumas for six years, and finds “there is a stronger political awareness in working-class neighborhoods. People think a little more about the consequences of their actions and buck trends to look for alternatives.”
Even so, Aude and Romain understood customers would be mindful of their time and money. “We really built our store on the promise of daily shopping, on real basic needs for which we try to find the best quality-price ratio,” Romain says, “We’re very careful to hold prices on staple items, which right now are carrots, leeks and potatoes.” The top sellers include apples, bananas, laundry detergent, toilet paper and milk.
Acknowledging that organic is more expensive than conventional, Romain stresses that buying bulk and unprocessed products, and cooking at home allows customers to control their budgets. And Toutbon aims to offer bulk products 15% cheaper than their packaged organic counterparts, and has continued to expand its bulk offer. “Today, we have the largest 100% organic bulk department in Paris, with more than 600 food [tea, coffee, spices, cereals, legumes, jam, honey] and non-food [household products and cosmetics] references. Bulk accounts for nearly 25% of our store’s turnover,” Romain says.
Maintaining prices has been a major issue this year, as inflation pushed suppliers to raise their prices, and rising energy prices quadrupled the store’s electricity bill. “We decided it wasn’t reasonable to raise our prices at a time when people’s buying power is under pressure. So we found another system: we did a lot of work to lower our expenses, including overhauling the entire electrical system,” Romain explains. He notes that this gloomy trend comes on top of a “rather fragile” organic market, but “customers are there and loyal. We see that people are reducing their consumption a bit, that the average basket is a smaller basket, but the store traffic is still just as important. »
This year, Toutbon also worked to increase their offer from small artisanal and local producers (cheese, yogurt, fresh pasta, fish), to propose more products in deposit bottles (milk, vegetable milk, beer, fruit juice, water) and to use compostable packaging for all the products repackaged by the store (portions of cheese, quiche, antipasti). Today, 50 to 60% of the store’s products are zero-waste (sold in bulk or in compostable or deposit packaging), which represents a savings of 3 tons of packaging each year.
The store’s social and ecological commitments continue outside its walls. “We don’t throw anything away. Our garbage bins are empty,” Romain says. Unsold food is distributed via anti-waste apps Hop Hop Food and Phénix, or it’s donated to the Cantine Solidaire at La Flèche d’Or or to Moissons Solidaires. The rest goes to Les Alchimistes to be composted, along with the green waste collected in the public bin in front of the store. The initiative was launched with Veni Verdi, but “it worked so well that it was too much for them – 15 tons a year!” explains Romain, who says the association and other neighborhood gardens still come to get the green waste they need. Toutbon also sells products from Veni Verdi (plants, dried herbs) as well as Les Alchemist’s compost. Romain notes that “there is a wealth of associations in the 20th that creates a virtuous circle. Toutbon is one of the links in a complex chain. »
Pleased with their change of occupations, Aude and Romain are also happy to have created jobs for 14 people. “We are very attentive to the way we recruit and manage our team, and to the way we welcome and advise our clients,” Romain says, “Not everyone enters this store to buy organic or in bulk, to change their habits. We try to accompany people, to make a joyful transition through good humor. And we see that people are adopting these practices, that our light approach is working pretty well.”
120 rue des Pyrénées
Métro Maraîchers or Tram Marie de Miribel