17 November 2020, 08:19 AM
  • Rod Challis, waste management expert at Certified Sustainable highlights the way we can all work towards a more sustainable future
How independents can improve brand integrity

It can be said that Covid is the catalyst for a number of consumers starting to prioritise their sustainability efforts but actually, over a year ago, eight in ten customers were already trying to reduce their plastic waste with over half willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaging.

Consumer behaviour is changing and people are often looking to brands for these sustainable solutions, meaning selling products that provide less of an environmental impact is starting to go a long way in boosting company reputations and brand integrity.

The environment is at the forefront of many food retailers strategies, especially as 75% of UK shoppers want supermarkets to stock only ethical and sustainable products. But how can those small, independent food retailers use this green initiative to maintain and improve its brand integrity?

Sustainable sourcing
Each small, independent food retailer should be known for its eco-friendly reputation. This can be achieved by sourcing sustainable products for its store.

First, you can consider packaging. Look for suppliers/manufacturers that use environmentally friendly packaging. Perhaps aluminium as an alternative to plastic or foods that are preserved in already recycled paper and cardboard materials. Packaging should be easy to recycle and biodegradable, if you want to communicate your business’ values on environmental conservation to consumers and reduce plastic pollution.

Pukka Herbs uses an organic string to hold its staple-free and plastic-free tea bag together, whilst Whites Oats is now using a recyclable paper bag to house its Organic Jumbo Oats. These are the type of sustainable products and packaging you should be associating your business with to improve brand integrity.

Another option is to promote refillable packaging through having distinct refillable zones in your store which is another step away from plastic. From washing up liquid to pasta, you could encourage consumers to bring their own containers to fill up on whatever products they need.

Many larger food retailers such as Waitrose and Asda, and smaller independent stores, have already started to implement this scheme after signing up to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which features 40 retailers worldwide.

The commitment aims to reduce plastic waste by applying circular economy principles and increasing the use of recycled packaging by 25% by 2025. With this in mind, it is worth researching into or speaking with the manufacturers, of the products being sold in your store, to see if their foods can be sold without packaging as you prioritise refillable options.

40% of food packaging ends up in landfill so sourcing sustainable products packed in recyclable materials, or minimising the use of packaging is essential in reducing waste.

Another solution to reducing waste is to implement a strategic waste management system…

Waste management
Food is one of the most wasted substances in the world but there are ways small, independent food retailers can help minimise this.

First, we encourage you to manage your inventory process. Having a comprehensive understanding of your inventory can ensure you are measuring and tracking what products are going to waste. Perhaps one brand of yoghurt is not selling as well as another – you now know not to increase order numbers as stock day comes around.

If you do find yourselves inundated with leftover products near to expiry dates, then why not partner with local charities or food banks and help those in need as unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has seen the demand for food banks rise up to 300% in some areas of the UK. This commitment to doing good can also increase brand integrity and reputation.

Small, independent food retailers can also be part of sustainable change by being at the forefront of altering consumer habits.

Reduce cosmetic standards by selling the odd-shaped fruits and vegetables. They might look different but they taste the same – this needs to be communicated with customers.

You could also encourage better recycling by setting up recycling points within your store, gaining a reputation of being part of the zero-waste revolution.

TetraCycle has partnered with both Hovis and Walkers to create free recycling programmes, at drop-off points across the UK, to encourage the recycling of its crisp and bread bags, alongside other similar brands. Perhaps think of joining a similar scheme?

There are many steps which can be taken to ensure small, independent food retailers are becoming better known for its stance on creating environmental change, helping to maintain and increase brand integrity. However, managing its waste and incorporating recyclable products are one of the most important.

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