UK’s most environmentally friendly supermarket to roll out across the country

Britain’s most environmentally friendly supermarket is set to expand across the country, after starting life in a derelict building.

Founded in 2013 by Jack Simmonds and sisters Amy and Ruth Anslow, the store tackled plastic and food waste long before it became fashionable. It has since advised major retailers such as Marks & Spencer.

Now turning over £1.7million a year, Brighton-based Hisbe is expanding, with 10 new stores and plans for a nationwide chain.

Disillusioned with supermarket customer service after the horse meat scandal five years ago, the trio set up the company through a crowdsourcing campaign.

Jack Simmonds explains: “We were fed up with the way the major supermarkets were treating consumers. It was just after the meat scandal and we were all shocked by how little traceability there was by retailers.

“We are far from perfect but I think we are slowly eradicating the myth that good-quality food is just for rich people. Most of our prices are affordable and comparable with big supermarkets, even though we have higher costs.”

Hisbe, which stands for “how it should be”, avoids big brands and focuses on local suppliers who share its ethos, with a large supply of org­­anic goods.

Most fruit and veg is sold loose to cut down on plastics, and household products such as laundry detergent are dispensed into reuseable bottles brought in by customers.

Its dry goods refill station for rice, pasta and grains has proved so popular it has now replaced packaged alternatives completely.

Jack says: “I run a more ethical version of a Tesco Express. We are not a health shop, just trying to offer good-quality, locally sourced food without excess packaging.

Its dry goods refill station for rice, pasta and grains has proven so popular it has now removed the packaged alternatives completely.

Jack says: “I run a more ethical version of a Tesco Express. We are not a health shop, just trying to offer good quality, locally sourced food without excess packaging.”

“We are not completely plastic free, but we would like to be.

“We then ended up with a load of them going to waste, so it is a balancing act. We encouraged customers to use the refillable stations by making them cheaper than the pre-packed versions.”

Food close to its use-by date is reduced in price, or given free to customers or staff. Six months ago, M&S asked the firm for advice on how to reduce its waste and plastic packaging.

Is Hisbe worried about major retailers imitating its model?

“We don’t mind if we are copied,” Jack says. “We want the big boys to seriously tackle waste.

“But I am not sure they will as we don’t make anywhere as much profit as the major supermarkets.”

Despite that, Hisbe, which opened four-and-a-half years ago, last year turned over £1.7million.

But instead of allocating that money to marketing or shareholders, they pay staff the living wage of £8.75 a hour and pass profit back to local farmers and suppliers.

Ruth Anslow says: “To transform the food industry, we need to expand and be copied.

“It took us two years to ensure our model was commercially viable. Now it comfortably pays the bills and makes enough for us to look at future stores.”

Bargain ‘best before’ goods beat waste

Other stores are also doing their bit, by offering food, at knockdown prices, that would otherwise be wasted…

– FULTONS sells thousands of products, including pasta, biscuits, crisps and cake bars, that are past their “best before” dates but at bargain prices.

The family-run outfit, based in Barnsley, South Yorks, operates 100 stores in the Midlands and North. It sells surplus stock direct from manufacturers but at significantly lower prices than supermarkets.

The firm’s Karen Gunter says: “An increasing number of householders are saving hundreds of pounds by taking advantage of the reality of ‘best before’ dates.

These products are perfectly fine to eat.” “Best before” is a manufacturer’s indication that an item may not be as good quality but it is not unsafe.Deliveries, which are made by couriers, are free for orders costing £30 or over.

– ONLINE retailer Approved Food runs a scheme offering 2,000 items near or past their “best before” dates. Its biggest-selling items include tinned tomatoes and pasta.

But it also sells non-foodstuffs packaged in wrapping with a limited lifespan, for example toilet rolls promoting the World Cup.

Boss Dan Cluderay, 43, says: “We’re never going to replace supermarkets but people are looking for high-quality bargains.”

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