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Guelph-based reusable container company readies to expand … again

With $5 million in new investor funds, Friendlier looks to grow locally and beyond
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A QR code on the back of the container can be scanned with the Friendlier app to get your deposit back.

With $5 million in new investment money in-hand, a Guelph-based reusable food container company is planning to consolidate and expand locally, as well as grow its national presence.

Announced Tuesday, the funds will be used to combine Friendlier’s two Guelph locations into a single, larger spot in the south end, as well as support operations at a new facility servicing the Vancouver, British Columbia area.

“There’s such a big movement right now toward reusable packaging,” said company co-founder Jacquie Hutchings. “Friendlier is really showing that it’s possible to reuse at scale and that’s what sets us apart.”

Friendlier currently has two Guelph facilities, which it plans to consolidate into a single location with five-times the capacity for washing and sanitizing containers for reuse. 

Vancouver will be a new market, with the company set to launch there in January.

“We work with a number of partners … who have expressed that there is need and desire from their clients out that way,” Hutchings said of what inspired the Vancouver expansion. “We hear that Vancouver has a lot of the right people, the right mindset, the right legislation that’s really growing the demand for reuse there.”

The company was launched in 2019 – known then as A Friendlier Company – founded by Hutchings and Kayli Dale, both University of Waterloo graduates who opted to begin their company in Guelph following surveys and interviews with business owners that showed support for their idea.

Participating businesses provide customers with reusable food takeout containers and collect a deposit. When people are done with their food, they scan a QR code on the back, which is linked to an account they’ve registered, and return the container to any participating business.

When the containers are picked up, customers receive an e-transfer to return their deposit.

At the time Friendlier was founded, it was just Hutchings and Dale but now Friendlier has about 50 employees, with most of them in southern Ontario.

To date, Friendlier has raised $8.35 million, including $850,000 in pre-seed funding, $2.5 million in seed funding, and the recent $5 million seed extension dollars. Additionally, the company has secured over $1 million in non-dilutive funding. 

"Friendlier is driving a paradigm shift in how businesses and consumers approach the issue of single-use packaging,” said John Albright, founder and partner of investment firm Relay Ventures and a member of Friendlier’s board of directors, in a news release. "In a world where environmental consciousness is paramount, Friendlier's innovative solutions are not just alternatives; they are catalysts for a sustainable future.” 

Friendlier’s reusable containers can now be found in more than 200 food service businesses throughout Ontario.

In addition to its upcoming expansion to Vancouver, Hutchings said efforts are underway to begin offering its reusable container services in Montreal, Quebec next year.

“We’re just securing some of our first clients in that area,” Hutchings said. “We’re working on a Montreal (washing) facility as well.”

According to the company’s website, use of its containers has prevented 196,424 kg of greenhouse gas emissions,67,813 kg of plastic and more than 9.46 million litres of water.