Posted: 20/05/2019

Farm shops well-placed to make the most of plastic-free demand

Farm shops are well-placed to boost footfall and fresh produce sales if they publicise their plastic-free credentials, new research has confirmed.

Rural retailers have widely embraced the call to reduce plastic – and FFD has spoken to several owners confirming this – but new data shows consumers are actively seeking sustainable businesses and products.

Now research from Kantar has found sales of loose fruit and vegetables are growing twice as quickly as those wrapped in plastic.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Consumers are applying pressure on the retailers when it comes to packaging and making their feelings known in the fruit and vegetable aisle.”

Some 21% of fruit and vegetables were sold loose in the 12 weeks ending 24th March, with sales growing twice as quickly as packaged produce, he said.

Robert Copley, who owns Farmer Copleys in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, said a “huge” number of farm-to-fork businesses already had less plastic produce packaging than supermarkets and many had made an increased effort over the past year.

“Customers can just choose the produce they want and use paper bags rather than plastic,” said Copley, who also chairs the Farm Retail Association (FRA).

The FRA has been urging the public, who are looking to reduce their plastic waste, to visit farm shops and farmers’ markets.

Minskip Farm Shop in North Yorkshire, for example, estimates it has reduced its own waste by 45% since 2017 by reusing produce and egg boxes and moving to paper bags.

Farndon Fields Farm Shop in Leicestershire reuses all its produce boxes by offering them to customers for carrying their shopping.

Milly Stokes, the shop’s co-owner, said it now sells loose dried goods from glass jars and all the shop’s deli counter items are wrapped in brown or greaseproof paper.

“We have had an overwhelming positive response from customers for our recent changes to 100% eliminating single-use plastic.”

Victoria Holland, buyer at Washingpool Farm Shop, in Dorset, does not sell anything in plastic apart from cucumbers. “The shelf life’s better in plastic so there’s less food wastage with the cucumbers when wrapped.”

Holland said this showed it was important to weigh up the different sides of the environmental equation before acting on certain products.

This story appeared in the May issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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