FUELING CHANGE IN OTHERS
Ours is a people’s revolution. Our Education department gives both our staff and customers the tools they need to make informed decisions that will result in a better food system. In putting radically seasonal produce back into the supply chain, our aim is to raise a demand for better flavour and more transparency. By helping people understand that their food choices have a dramatic impact on how produce is grown and supplied, we can create a more sustainable supply chain that does not distort nature but works alongside it.
Our education starts internally. We host a company-wide weekly session focusing on seasonal produce. We also meet quarterly as a company for Seasonal Sessions, in which specialised products or growing techniques are brought to life through discussions with our growers, tastings of our produce and guided group activities. Our Education team have developed an interactive course for our retail team to improve their knowledge and understanding of growers, their techniques and the singularities of their produce. It enables our staff to actively engage our customers in our revolution, to outline the changes we’re making and how each customer’s choices can have an impact on the food chain.
Externally, our stores are a platform to run seasonal educational campaigns that explore little-known or misunderstood produce, adjusting our customers’ expectations of fruit & vegetables and actively encouraging them to shop more seasonally. We are developing a programme of talks and workshops that will help them further their knowledge and get more comfortable with cooking seasonally. In sharing simple methods that can apply to groups of similar varietals, we will decrease their reliance on year-round staples and fixed recipes, leading to a more diverse diet that can adapt with the seasons.
RE-ENGAGING CONSUMERS WITH FLAVOR
The average consumer is becoming dangerously disconnected from how their food grows and gets to their plate. A lack of understanding and know-how means that shoppers are demanding an ever-narrowing range of intensively grown, year-round produce, losing touch with natural seasonal shifts as well as missing out on the dietary diversity available to us. We see tremendous value in working with supermarkets, rather than against them - because this is where we can have the most impact on what people are buying and eating.
While most supermarkets will offer an average of 130 different varieties of fruit & vegetables over the course of a year, we know we can improve not only on the quality of the produce available but also increase the diversity and seasonal relevance of what’s on the shelves. We source over 500 different varieties of seasonal fruit & vegetables and, by working with Ocado, Whole Foods and other partners, have been able to make 230 different varieties available to consumers so far.
By re-engaging consumers through flavor and encouraging them to eat a greater breadth of fruit & vegetables, we are replacing demand for produce that is intensively farmed on a year-round basis, with demand for produce that is sourced directly from independent growers and within its natural season.
We have seen that supermarkets themselves then adapt their own sourcing strategies based on this shift in demand; this is immensely powerful and has the potential to completely change the supply chain.
POTENTIAL IN THE NEXT GENERATION
Improving the health of children through food education is vital.
Through our collaboration with the charity Chefs In Schools, over 1400 schoolchildren in London now eat our radically seasonal produce every day at lunchtime. We’ve been the primary fruit and vegetables supplier to three London borough schools since October 2019, with up to 20 more schools due to sign up in 2020. Our first delivery to Lampton School included bee-pollinated Datterini from our farm in Sicily, Calabrian Bergamots and Sandy Carrots from François in Dunkirk.
This is the first time Bergamots have ever featured daily on a school menu and the fact that restaurant-grade produce is making it onto school dinner plates is the marker of a very fundamental change. Chefs In Schools works on the ground in schools to transform their food culture and education on a school-by-school basis. They train school cooks to meet restaurant standards, and train restaurant chefs to run school kitchens, transforming school lunches.
By working within the existing school canteen system, we are raising the daily standard and encouraging children to expect more from the food on their plate and to be more curious about where it comes from - more variety, better nutrition and remarkable flavor will forge their habits for the future.