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A new international report commissioned by Picadeli found that over half (57%) of Brits believe that clearer labelling of sustainable foods would encourage them to make more sustainable food choices when doing their food shops.
Brands and retailers have a key opportunity here to educate consumers on the environmental benefits and impact of their food choices, as the report clearly shows consumers want to make the right decisions when they shop.
Communicating with customers
One retailer doing just this is The Ethical Butcher. As founder Glen Burrows explained, “We’ve made sustainable shopping easier because all of our products come from regenerative farming practices. Our customers have come to trust our brand as being one who sources very carefully, in fact, we turn down the vast majority of suppliers who approach us wanting us to sell their products because they do not meet our standards.
“We are a purely purpose-driven brand and sustainability is the key purpose, we believe eating meat is not just a sustainable option but actually a regenerative one.”
In fact, The Ethical Butcher uses QR codes to allow customers to see the sustainability journey of the product from farm to fork. “We buy direct from farmers, visit each farm and make a film about how the animals are raised, what regenerative methods are employed and where they are, we then link this information to the product with a QR code which is included on the thermal print label on each product”, he told Speciality Food.
A less tech-savvy way of communicating the sustainability of your produce is old-fashioned word of mouth. As Mark Moody, head of marketing at Pipers Farm, explained, “To help customers make more sustainable choices when shopping with us, we provide clear information about the origin of our products, including the farms and farmers who produce them.
“Our team is knowledgeable about regenerative farming practices and can guide customers interested in learning more about it. This can happen via an informative website, chatting with our fantastic customer service team, and sharing thoughts on our insightful blogs.
“We encourage customers to eat seasonally and reduce food waste by making the most out of the product and providing recipes for any leftovers. By providing our customers with hints, tips, and facts, we empower them to make sustainable choices.”
Eversfield Organic is another retailer that uses social media and blog posts to communicate their ethical credentials to potential customers. “We take every opportunity to shout about sustainability and why it is so important to our customers, through informative blog posts on our website’s Newsbeet blog and social media.
“We minimise the amount of packaging we use for our produce where possible, and our packaging return scheme also means customers can return the reusable packaging from our boxes, so they can be used again and again, making their food shop as sustainable as can be”, Lydia Tomkinson, marketing executive, told Speciality Food.
Differentiating from the multiples
Fine food retailers tend to stock a wider variety of local and artisanal products than larger supermarkets. According to Lydia, this, as well as providing customers with higher quality produce, also helps them to shop local and support small businesses which value sustainability.
“We are proud to stock a wide range of organic grass-fed meat from our own family farm and other local farmers, guaranteeing traceability, as well as produce from our Market Garden and other small sustainable businesses.”
This level of insight into where the produce is from and how sustainable it is simply cannot be achieved by the supermarkets, which sets indies apart.
As Mark explained, “Specialist retailers tend to be closer to the product by working with small supply chains, knowing the producer, and genuinely caring for the product. This knowledge can be passed on to the customer and help them make the best recommendation, encouraging them to try new products they may not have bought before and how best to cook or prepare items. Supermarkets can rarely match this service.”
This is something Glen agreed with, as he added, “Generally the shorter the supply chain the better for both the customer and the supplier. The supplier can get a better price when selling more direct and this means they can afford to use better practices in farming that might produce smaller yields but higher quality and that quality can be rewarded.
“Also, for the consumer, a shorter supply chain can mean fewer hands in the process taking a markup so a better price and just as important a more traceable and transparent provenance meaning there is more trust and less processing before the food arrives on a plate.”