Credit: SaladStop!

Think of a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious meal, and SaladStop! instantly comes to mind.

Add another adjective to this list: Sustainable.

Earlier in May, the homegrown company opened Southeast Asia’s first net-zero F&B outlet at CapitaSpring, marking an industry first. This is in line with the brand’s ambition of reaching net zero emissions by 2030, with the objective of ensuring that each of its outlets – so far 69 across seven countries in Asia – will follow suit.

SaladStop! is the brainchild of the Desbaillets family, who’ve called Singapore home for more than 20 years. Set up by father and son duo Daniel and Adrien, the company recently closed a US$12 million Series B investment round. Katherine Desbaillets Braha, Daniel’s daughter, joined the company as co-owner and chief brand officer in 2015; she was formerly with Thailand’s The Central Group, where she was responsible for bringing international brands to the mall.

A key tenet that has defined SaladStop!’s business model is its commitment to transparency: when it first set up shop, it would reveal the nutritional value of each dish, with the objective of educating and converting consumers. Today, this same value of transparency permeates the brand’s sustainability efforts.

The press release detailing SaladStop! first net zero outlet features the names of the partners that have been crucial in mapping its sustainability journey. In an industry where suppliers and partners tend to be a closely-guarded secret, this seems like a deliberate move to galvanise other players in the F&B industry to follow their footstep, without wasting precious time on research.

So what exactly does net zero entail? The journey started two years ago by first understanding the carbon footprint of SaladStop! entire value chain. The carbon assessment was conducted by Unravel Carbon, which helped SaladStop! identify the biggest environmental issues. It has also partnered with Pomeroy Studio to implement a clean and green design; as well as Muuse to reduce food wastage.

Her World speaks to Katherine to understand more about its sustainable journey.

Congrats on the opening of SaladStop!’s first net zero outlet. Tell us more about SaladStop!’s sustainability journey, and what led to the decision to open your first net-zero outlet? 

The opening of our Net Zero store is the first tangible step for SaladStop! Group’s Net Zero vision. We are committed to becoming the first Asian F&B chain to achieve Net Zero capability across all our new and existing outlets by 2030, beginning with SaladStop! shops aiming for zero emissions by 2025. We aim to open any new store as Net Zero with any existing stores renovated to achieve Net Zero, starting with outlets in Singapore and then globally. We  pledge to achieve the maximum reduction of emissions in all new openings, with any remaining to be offset. 

The objective of the Net Zero store was to create an outlet with the least possible impact, using local sustainable design and materials, sourcing homegrown produce, reducing waste, and offering carbon neutral delivery. After we have exhausted all opportunities to reduce and replace emissions in our supply chain, we then use offsets for anything unavoidable. The opening of this store has been two years in the making and is a momentous moment for us as we embed Net Zero throughout the company, with a commitment to achieve Net Zero across the Group by 2030.

What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome? 

Finding all the suppliers for our recycled materials as well as get full transparency from our suppliers. 

Singapore imports about 90 per cent of our food. How is SaladStop! committed to achieving Singapore’s 30 by 30 goals? What are the steps taken to do so? 

Fully committed to sourcing as much as possible from local partners, SaladStop! has launched its Homegrown Salad and made entirely from locally grown ingredients in Singapore. This fresh, tasty salad includes delicious ingredients such as egg, kale, baked chilli barramundi and tamarind vinaigrette.

Going net-zero also means addressing issues across the entire supply chain, which can be a very long and challenging process. Can you tell me more about how you resolved issues in the supply chain? Where was the biggest sustainability challenge, and how did you resolve that? 

It took us two years to get all the information from suppliers and had to change some of the suppliers that would not give us that information. 

Food waste is also a dire problem — can you tell us how SaladStop! deals with waste management? 

We prepare most of our fresh items in store and prepare as the day goes as needed therefore we have minimal wastage. 

You closed a series B funding round last year — what does that signify for the growth of SaladStop!, and what can we expect to see next? 

By evolving our business strategy to include Net Zero, we are transforming our governance and processes, making sure we have the right structures in place to not only monitor progress but make long-term decisions about our future. This new strategy is changing how we allocate capital and build a long-term sustainable brand that consumers love, further propelling our vision to become the first Asian F&B chain to achieve Net Zero across all new and existing outlets. We do work as much as possible with local farms for full transparency and with suppliers that can give us that information.

Katherine with her husband Frantz Baha (left), and brother Adrien Desbaillets. Credit: SaladStop

You run the business as a chief brand officer along with your dad, brother and husband — tell us how you got started in the business? What were some of your biggest challenges back then, and how did you overcome them? 

My dad is no longer part of the business and he is only on the board of advisors. Thirteen years ago we needed to educate our customers on healthy eating as well as educate our customers on being sustainable – now this is part of our everyday.

In all families, there will be conflict — how do you manage conflict in the business?  

We are very respectful of each other’s opinions and drive with the philosophy that there is no right answer and that everyone has their own opinion and we go with what is best for the company. We leave our egos at the door every time we enter the office.