A smart solution for your pallets and your wallet

by Fatima Benabdelaziz-Tair, editor at fi-compass

Every day, thousands of trucks pollute in order to drive back empty pallets to their departure points. Since January 2019, a Montpellier based start-up offers a tailor-made solution to this “ecological nonsense”.

"In 2016, I joined my father-in law’s refrigerated transport and logistics company and discovered we had to drive empty pallets back to their starting point. Having to drive 800 kilometers in order to deliver empty pallets back to their departure point when the same ones were available locally seemed a complete nonsense to me”, recalls Pierre-Edouard Robert, Founder of MagicPallet while he adds: “Initially, I just wanted to find a way out of this issue but I didn't find any”.

Pierre-Edouard Robert, Founder of MagicPallet
the MagicPallet team

To compensate for what he describes "an ecological and economic nonsense", the 38 year-old entrepreneur created MagicPallet in December 2018, the first online platform allowing empty pallet exchanges. When subscribing to the website, carriers can locate in real time and throughout the whole territory available pallets. Connected to other carriers, they can exchange, sell or buy pallets where and when they wish, without the need to bring them back to their departure point anymore.

An essential boost

“Despite having some experience in my father-in-law’s company, MagicPallet was the first business I created all by myself and I obviously needed mentoring. A member of my family introduced me to the community of business leaders ‘Réseau Entreprendre Occitanie Garonne’, where I got the winner’s prize. I heard about Créalia through them”, recalls the entrepreneur.

“I am very thankful that Créalia gave me a EUR 30 000 loan on trust for the development of MagicPallet. This loan, which I will soon pay off, has allowed me to recruit a business developer at a critical stage of expansion as well as partly finance the developments of the MagicPallet platform”, says Mr. Robert who now leads a team of 20 employees while he adds with enthusiasm: “MagicPallet was very well received right from the beginning. I could not imagine it would be so successful”

Men moving wooden pallets on forklifts in a warehouse
Mikaël Bresson, Founding President of Phytocontrol Group and Vice-President of CREALIA

With 150 businesses using MagicPallet today, the service has allowed the relocation of 3 million pallets since its launch, and more than half in 2021 alone, i.e. the equivalent of 84 tonnes of wood saved if new pallets had been manufactured.

“Pierre Edouard's knowledge of this sector as well as his ability to become a business manager convinced the members of CREALIA OCCITANIE to finance his project, which responds to both economic and ecological issues”.

Mikaël Bresson, Founding President of Phytocontrol Group and Vice-President of CREALIA

Cost and environment friendly thanks to MagicPallet’s collaborative DNA

Consumers pay according to the number of palettes relocated; the more they use the platform, the cheaper the price goes. "Our tool puts an end to very expensive costs for relocating pallets. Where a carrier, distributor or manufacturer paid up to 1 euro per relocated pallet, the cost is now between 30 and 70 cents depending on the volume of pallets exchanged”, says the Montpellier entrepreneur.

The MagicPallet platform calculated that for an SME like Mr. Robert’s father in law, which manages a fleet of 200 trucks, the annual cost of returning those pallets is around EUR 200 000. “On the scale of the 38 000 French transport companies, this ballet of heavy goods vehicles generates an estimated additional cost of 100 million euros”, argues the entrepreneur. More importantly, the bill is also heavy for the environment. "By adopting our solution, an SME with 200 trucks can save up to 6 000 kilometers each month, that is, more than 4 tons of CO2," estimates the entrepreneur, who calculated that if all French carriers used his system, an emission of 900 000 tonnes of CO2 per year could be avoided.

MagicPallet office

Looking ahead

The development of the company was also made possible thanks to a EUR 2.5 million fundraising from several investors. This financing at preferential terms allowed the start-up to launch its service in France and plan an international deployment process. With 600 million pallets being reused all over Europe each day, the start-up plans to develop its offer in the Benelux union in the second semester of 2022 and expand then all over Europe by 2025. 


“The pandemic has generated a lot of raw material scarcity and this had a positive impact on our business. Suddenly, significantly fewer new pallets were on the market and many companies kept their pallets to relocate them via our platform. This has in a way made many businesses more aware of their green Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)”, says Pierre-Edouard Robert who does not rule out the possibility of expanding the service to the maritime transport.

FOSTER, a breath of fresh air for Very Small Enterprises and Small and Medium Enterprises (VSEs and SMEs) in Occitanie

MagicPallet employees working at the Montpellier headquarters

In order to fill financing gaps and boost business competitiveness, the Occitanie Region has developed, with the support of Europe, financial instruments providing financial solutions at very favorable terms for regional VSEs and SMEs, under the name ‘FOSTER TPE-PME’.

Three products are made available to them: a bank loan guarantee, a zero-rate innovation loan and equity participation in the capital of companies, via financial operators or intermediaries (banks, business loan associations, investment companies), such as Créalia, selected following a call for applications.

This initiative is co-financed by two European Structural and Investment Funds, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), with a contribution from the European Investment Fund (EIF).

To date, EUR 181 million have been mobilised to boost the entrepreneurial fabric in Occitanie, generating EUR 1.2 billion in private financing for the benefit of 7 000 VSEs-SMEs.

Prêt relance FOSTER TPE-PME