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According to research from Ocado, over two-thirds (70%) of Brits want to eat more seasonal produce this year. However, despite this sharp rise in interest, 47% admitted that they don’t know when produce is in season both in the UK and abroad.
The study showed that consumer interest in eating more seasonally has risen following the recent nationwide fruit and vegetable shortages due to extreme weather in the Mediterranean causing supermarkets to ration peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.
During this period, farm shops and markets saw an uplift in footfall with their short supply chains and local connections. Therefore, with less than one in five Brits currently basing their food shop on what is in season, indies have a key opportunity to help consumers focus on seasonal produce and boost sales.
The importance of promoting seasonal eating
As the climate crisis threatens more extreme weather and temperature changes that will affect growing and harvesting, eating locally and seasonally is becoming increasingly important.
Guy Singh-Watford, founder of Riverford, explained, “The biggest barrier to reducing the environmental impact of what we eat is the perception that we can all have whatever we want, whenever we want it and expect to buy our food for around 10% of our income, which is not a sustainable proposition.
“In the UK we currently produce about 50% of our food and much less than that when it comes to fruit; if we are going to live sustainably, we need to drastically increase the amount of food grown in this country, particularly fruit and vegetables.
“Given our climate, the only way we’re going to achieve this is by eating seasonally and not expecting tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines to be available all year, but be willing to enjoy what is in season; broad beans for the two months they are at their best, followed by French beans and then runner beans into the autumn.”
Lydia Tomkinson, marketing executive at Eversfield Organic, added, “There are so many benefits to eating locally grown seasonal produce.
“From the taste and nutritional content of the produce being much better due to its freshness, to the reduced packaging and food miles it takes to transport it to your plate making it the more sustainable and environmentally friendly option to go for; choosing seasonal produce over imports also supports British farmers and local businesses, helping boost the economy.”
How indies can help
Thanks to their short supply chains, fine food retailers are in a unique position to help consumers shift to a more planet-friendly, seasonal way of eating, and communicating this message is easier than you might think.
Lydia suggested, “Independent retailers can educate their customers about what is currently in season by putting a spotlight on this produce and its local origins. This can help customers make more informed decisions around seasonality and the growing, harvesting and transportation process behind the produce they are buying.
“We communicate the numerous benefits of eating local, seasonal produce with our customers through informative and entertaining articles posted on our Newsbeet blog, discussing issues such as the hungry gap and the environmental impact of food miles, as well as why eating seasonal results in fresher, tastier produce.
“We regularly publish recipes featuring our favourite seasonal produce for that time of year, helping our customers to get creative with produce farmed on British soils and feature seasonal produce prominently in our marketing emails and social media posts.”
Guy also highlighted indies’ power to hold conversations with their customers – something the multiples simply cannot do. “Talking to customers is key, it’s all about sharing knowledge and getting people excited to cook and eat with the seasons.
“Creating content for social media channels can help to reach a wider audience, but it could be as simple as having information in the shop about where veg has come from and who has grown it – to provide the real farm to table experience”, he added.