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A plate, knife and fork on the union jack to celebrate British Food Fortnight

British Food Fortnight: Less Waste, More Taste!

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Early autumn is a fantastic time for foodies, with a ton of top food festivals to attend and two particularly prominent and long-running campaigns that will interest anyone with an interest in British cuisine or ethical food practices.

First up between 6-10 September is Zero Waste Week, an international movement now in its 14th year that encourages people to look after the planet by being more mindful of (and ultimately doing something about) the amount of food and other disposable items they throw out.

Then between 18th September – 3rd October is British Food Fortnight, an annual campaign designed to promote eating traditional British food produce, now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Being passionate about both causes, we thought it was time to look at them in a little more depth and give you an idea of how you can get involved in them!

What is zero waste and why is it important?

The idea behind zero waste is that items which you might once have absent-mindedly decided to throw out can instead be reused in an alternative way (maybe repaired, or possibly repurposed entirely) in order to get full value from them. This extends their shelf life, lowers the amount of waste in the world, and even helps save you money.

But what is zero waste week 2021?

An illustration of two hands holding the Zero Waste Week logo with

Zero Waste Week began in September 2008 in response to a natural disaster which left founder Rachel Strauss determined to leave behind a better life for her child.

It started as a blog where she encouraged people to check what was in their fridge and track what they threw out. It’s since grown into a movement followed in over 80 countries, with the #ZeroWasteWeek hashtag shared over 56 million times on Twitter.

Why does Zero Waste Week matter?

A video on the Zero Waste Week website makes the answer to this clear:

  • Only 1% of the things we buy are still being used after six months
  • An entire third of the food produced globally is wasted. Despite this, many third-world countries still experience famine and people dying of starvation
  • To grow all of that wasted food, people need a land mass larger than China – meaning an enormous logistical and pollutive effort for absolutely no benefit to anyone
  • To make the point on a more local and relatable level, however, the average UK family spends £810 a year on food they then throw out.

Whether on a humanitarian level, viewed through the lens of climate change, or considered purely on the basis of individual expense, food wastage in particular is an enormous problem. Addressing it is therefore crucially important to people from all walks of life, as well as to the longevity of our planet.

How can you get involved with Zero Waste Week?

The Zero Waste Week campaign works with businesses, local authorities, schools and householders to help them act more mindfully about their daily wastage. The first step is to do a waste audit.

“Just live your normal life,” says Rachel, “don’t try and make any changes for about a week. And then jot down everything you’re throwing away. And then you can start to make a plan as to what you’re going to do with it.”

If you’re interested in knowing more about Zero Waste Week, head to the website to sign up to the mailing list. You can also donate to keep Zero Waste high on the agenda, or download posters and other materials to print over at the press page.

Additionally, you can follow the campaign on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, joining the conversation with the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek.

British Food Fortnight: everything you need to know

A selection of British food in front of the Union Jack flag

First conceived as a modern mainstream version of the traditional British Harvest Festival and patroned by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, British Food Fortnight has been running since 2001 and celebrates the diversity and deliciousness of fresh British foods, produce and ingredients.

Why buy and eat British?

The Love British Food website gives many compelling reasons, including:

  • British meat is more humanely reared than almost anywhere else: 70% of the pig meat imported into the UK comes from a farming system that would be illegal in the UK
  • British people want to buy British: 63% of consumers for instance want the chicken they eat to be reared here in Britain
  • Eating in-season British fruit and veg isn’t only good for you – it travels less far, meaning a lower carbon footprint, which is far better for the planet.

What does British Food Fortnight involve?

During the fortnight there will be literally hundreds of events up and down the country, in all sorts of establishments. They include:

  • Schools: Fun activities, foodie lessons and special school menus in schools.
  • Pubs, restaurants and hotels: menu promotions and visitor attractions.
  • Hospitals and care homes: Love British Food menus
  • Universities: Themed menus in unis where Fresher’s Week coincides with the Fortnight.
  • Shops and markets: Promotions, meet the producer events and tastings
  • The food service sector: Special menus in places from staff restaurants to sports venues
  • Across the country: The Love British Food Harvest Torch travels with a National Harvest Service every year.
  • Plus: An annual competition will run to find the most imaginative community event during the Fortnight.
  • Villages, market towns and cities: Community celebrations of all shapes and sizes!

How to get involved with British Food Fortnight

Whether you’re an individual or work in any branch of the British food industry, there are an incredible number of ways to get involved with the foodie festivities this British Food Fortnight. They include:

  • Consumers: Buy British, seek out British Food Fortnight menus and encourage local shops and restaurants to take part.
  • Retailers: Highlight British foods in-store, expand your range and offer tasting sessions.
  • Pubs, hotels etc: Highlight British food on your menu and name the farms your produce comes from. You could even launch offers, promotions and bookings to make the most of local pride in British produce!
  • Food service: Source British food, promote the Britishness of your menu and contact suppliers so you can buy in bulk (But make sure you don’t let any go to waste!)
  • Public sector: Hospitals, care homes, government offices and the like could consider banding together to aggregate food costs and running special menus in on-site canteens
  • Schools: Use the Fortnight as motivation to find British suppliers, buy in-season products, and promote your actions to local media interested in eating and buying British. You can even use point of sale material with the BFF or Union Jack to make your participation more noticeable
  • Universities: Offer cookery demos, produce case studies and market your participation in British Food Fortnight on your website and social media channels
  • Councils: Champion local business that buy and sell British produce and distribute our ‘How to take part’ packs. You could even sponsor or run local events, or offer regional food producers’ tastings or awareness courses that speak to the importance of buying, selling and British.

You can also apply to become a Food Hero in order to support the campaign in this and future years. Plus, the Love British Food site lists an additional 14 things you can do to promote the Fortnight. And don’t forget you can get involved with the conversation on social media using the hashtag #BritishFoodIsGreat.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to tell the organisers of British Food Fortnight what you’re doing so they can promote it too. You can email them at info@lovebritishfood.co.uk.

How we support great-taste, low-waste British food

At R&G Fresh, we care deeply about reducing waste and delivering the freshest, and where possible locally-sourced produce, that can make every dish you prepare taste incredible.

Not only have we previously blogged about preventing food waste, we actively outsource the majority of our production process to our growers so that our food arrives pre-bunched. It’s a process designed specifically to reduce food waste while allowing us to pay our growers more at the same time – all part of our commitment to ethical food business practices. (In fact, 96% of our raw produce is bought through our sustainable sourcing strategy).

Speaking of our growers, at R&G Fresh we work with some of the finest on the planet – including several based in the UK. We feel passionately about providing the freshest in-season produce possible; picked, packed and shipped locally whenever the season allows. We also make sure our suppliers work with the land to enhance it rather than damaging it; thereby ensuring our practices are great for Britain, and the British food industry.

And over in the recipes part of our blog The Chopping Board, we showcase some of the best ways to use that freshly-picked British produce in recipes for quirky and traditional British foods alike.

To discover more about what we do, visit the How We Work and Our Produce pages, or browse the links below.

From food waste to new food

Why Stopping Food Waste Matters

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28th April 2021 is Stop Food Waste Day – so we felt it timely to look at the serious (and growing!) problem of food waste and what we can all do about it.

Understanding food loss and waste

According to FareShare, the UK food industry alone wastes 3.6 million tonnes of food each year – 2 million of which is still edible at the time it’s thrown out. That’s enough for around 1.3 billion meals.

Even taken in isolation, those numbers are staggering. But when you consider that over 8 million people in the UK struggle to eat each year, and that food bank usage hit an all-time high during the global pandemic, there are clearly some big reasons why food waste prevention matters.

Why does food waste happen?

Food waste happens at every stage of the supply chain.

Fareshare’s numbers indicate that around 2 million tonnes of waste occurs at the farming stage alone, with food that’s spilled, spoiled stored incorrectly or packed poorly.

Processing and manufacturing is the next largest area for improvement, with up to 160,000 tonnes of lost food that’s fit for human consumption. Distribution channels can account for up to 120,000 tonnes, and unsold retail produce for around 110,000 tonnes of food that could have fed hungry mouths.

Humanitarian concerns aside, however, food waste also contributes heavily to climate change, with the World Wildlife Fund estimating 11% of all food system greenhouse gas emissions would be avoided by successfully tackling the problem of food wastage.

Solving the problem of food waste

Food waste pile

At R&G Fresh we make sure our suppliers work responsibly with the land to nurture the soil and the immediate environment rather than damaging it.

Our growers also pre-bunch 90% of the produce they pick before shipping it to us, meaning we minimise waste as much as possible.

That all happens because everyone in our business is committed to a sustainable way of working. We really do believe that these things start from a value system that favours sustainability.

Aside from a fundamental culture shift, however, there are certain things companies and individuals can do to solve the problem of food waste.

Corporate food waste

This post by Supply Chain Digital offers three things businesses can look at to address food waste. In short, they are:

1.     Improve visibility across the supply chain

For companies to reduce food waste, they first need to analyse the different stages of their process to get a real sense of how it’s working, and what needs to change.

2.     Make intelligent changes

There are many kinds of changes food companies could make depending on their findings at stage one. They include:

  • Improving product forecasting and ordering less inventory
  • Reviewing their distribution process and partners
  • Taking a keen eye to transportation choices and combining fleet journeys

3.     Increase efficiencies and work together better

If stage one above was ‘figure out what to do’ and stage two was ‘do it’, stage three is to continually iterate on and improve those processes – while recognising that communication and transparency with other businesses are critical to making it happen.

At R&G Fresh, we regularly visit our growers to make sure we’re aware of the challenges they’re facing, and are on-hand to offer our resources and support. We believe it’s the right way to operate, and the companies we work with think that way too.

Additionally, there is also the simple act of donating food rather than throwing it away. More than 100 UK supermarkets have pledged to reduce food waste by half by 2030, and each of them donating to the food banks we mentioned earlier will go a long way to addressing the problem’s human impact.

Personal food waste

Full kitchen food waste bin

So far, we’ve explained why stopping food waste matters and some of the steps companies can take towards solving the problem of food waste.

However, according to Friends of the Earth, there are many steps we can all take as individuals to stop food waste, each and every day.

They include:

How will you do your bit to prevent food waste?

Whether you’re reading this from a food industry perspective, or looking at things as an individual, we hope we’ve gotten across why reducing food waste is important.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit the Stop Food Waste Day website and join the virtual event on 28th April.

COVID-19 Shopping Behaviours

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When the lockdown was announced, consumers had to adapt to a different way of shopping and cooking. With that in mind, we take a look at the impact COVID-19 has had on shopping behaviours so far.

Lockdown began on the 23rd March 2020 and shopping habits changed rapidly as panic buying across the country saw customers switch from fresh, to dried, frozen or ambient.

Shopping days (and time of day) changed as people were furloughed and retailers had to enforce restrictions on how many people could shop safely in store at any given time. Consumers started to shop at the start of the week and earlier in the day, which became the ‘new normal’, rather than at weekends.

During this period, customers found their inner chef and more families ate together in the evenings. People started to be more creative, using online recipes and getting inspiration via their store cupboard ingredients.

Home baking became the new trend, along with batch cooking and scratch cooking becoming more popular. These are set to continue as lockdown eases.

With this inspiration of uses, preparation of products and not wasting any leftover food, fresh-cut herbs sales saw an increase. Some of which was driven by consumers enjoying low, slow cooking for BBQ’s, making marinades, pesto and other sauces.

Although beers, wines and spirits have seen significant uplift over this period there was a particular interest in low or non-alcoholic cocktails too. These, coupled with old faithful herbs such as thyme, rosemary and bay provided a depth of flavour. Plus, by using the more fragrant herbs such as basil and mint an amazing freshness can be added to any mocktail.

Online sales crashed for several retailers during the initial months of the pandemic and convenience stores became the go-to for customers needing to pick up their local groceries where shelves were well stocked. Larger retailers struggled with demand and as we saw in the news, shelves were empty. This did increase sales, giving local stores significant growth.

As the situation eased, with more people returning to work and online slot availability considerably improved across retailers, customers continue to do one big shop a week with a small top-up from local shops.

This is starting to slow down now that more fast food outlets are starting to open and the appeal to eat out after lockdown has seen a rise in footfall to restaurants.

Traditional shopping habits are slowly returning to normal. The change, however, is gradual with online and ‘click and collect’ services having the largest growth over these unprecedented times. This is set to continue as the ‘new normal’ preferred way to shop.

Want to speak to us about stocking our fresh-cut herbs and ingredients? Please contact us for more information.

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