Many of us can take a walk down our local high street and choose cuisine from anywhere in the world. Peruvian, Sri Lankan, Israeli, Ethiopian. Not to mention the ‘usual’ restaurants and takeaways including Chinese, Indian, American and Italian.
We can also buy all kinds of new and inspiring ingredients from local shops and the supermarket. It’s wonderful. Sampling these delicious cuisines is a fortunate consequence of living in the West.
But what does all this choice mean?
As consumers, we have power.
These delights wouldn’t exist if we didn’t demand them. But having whatever we want, at the price we want to pay, often means someone, or some place, has suffered in some way. We only need to think of the avocado farms run by Mexican cartels to realise that. If the demand didn’t exist, my bet is that these organised avocado gangs wouldn’t exist either.
But we can choose to use our consumer power for the greater good. We can choose brands who are doing good either by the planet, the growers and producers or our own health. These choices can have a global impact. In other words, the food or ingredients we choose have the power to make a difference.
What Does ‘Doing Good’ Mean, Exactly?
Food brands doing good are those going out of their way to do things differently. They’re the opposite of purely-for-profit brands. The complete antithesis of the stack-’em-high-sell-’em-cheap brigade. There’s no aggressive marketing, and certainly no underhand secret sponsorship deals.
Instead, a brand doing good might decide to make organic sausages using meat from a sustainable farm. They might have the wellbeing of the animals or the environment top of their list. Another might source their ingredients from a Fairtrade plantation, placing the welfare of the farmers high in their priorities. Or, they might sweeten their product with dates or maple syrup, rather than using refined sugars, making it a healthier treat for us.
These are impact brands. They put sustainability, the environment and human and animal welfare above profits.
Here’s some examples of fabulous British food and drink brands doing good.
Fairtrade as a Mark of Sustainability
Sustainability extends further than shopping locally and seasonally. For example, for the most part, we don’t grow tea here in the UK. (Although Tregothnan tea do, on a beautiful estate in Cornwall.) So how do we make a difference if we’re drinking tea from far afield each morning? By choosing Fairtrade tea brands.
We can also opt for Fairtrade coffee, sugar, chocolate, bananas, grains, herbs and spices. Fairtrade means that the farmers, growers, pickers and producers have been paid a fair price for their goods. It means co-operatives and communities can thrive by employing sustainable business practices. This in turn means even more sustainable choices for us.
Ditching the Palm Oil
Brands using sustainable ingredients make a difference ecologically and sociologically.
The production of palm oil is responsible for huge deforestation in Asia, South America and Africa. Palm oil is far from sustainable. Its farming not only causes climate change. It leads to a destruction of the habitats of orangutans and other primate species, tigers and rhinos on a devastating scale.
Palm oil production has also led to abuses of the rights of the indigenous people living in these areas. It’s such a problem because palm oil is so easy to grow, and cheap for food manufacturers to use.
Thankfully, many companies are now choosing to ditch palm oil, and many are based in the UK. Island Bakery on the Isle of Mull make organic biscuits that are all free from palm oil.
Pacari Chocolates tick the no palm oil box too. They work directly with Ecuadorian farmers and pay them a fair price. This helps support them, their local economy and the wider communities. Pacari are also organic, meaning they don’t use any fertilisers or pesticides that pollute the earth. Plus, all their packaging is 100% recyclable.
What could be better than choosing biscuits and chocolates that don’t harm beautiful creatures or displace whole communities?
Ditching the Ditching of Bycatch
Fish4Ever is an example of another UK food brand doing good. This time by the sustainability of our seas. They support small-scale fishing and other sustainable fishing practices. These include the use of small boats and local fishing communities.
Smaller boats don’t cause the damage to the ocean floor that industrial scale fishing practices do. Fish4Ever also make sure they avoid ‘bycatch’. These are aquatic creatures that get unwittingly caught up in fishing nets which leads to their unnecessary demise.
Making Considerate Packaging Choices
A large factor in sustainability is degradable or compostable packaging. Or at least, plastic-free packaging.
Snact make healthy snacks from surplus fruit and have switched to fully compostable packaging. Opting for brands using such packaging helps to reduce the millions of tonnes of plastic that is produced each year. As does bulk shopping where no packaging is used at all.
Social Enterprises Building Communities and Spirits
We can also choose to be part of local initiatives that support our own communities. At a time when many of us don’t know our neighbours, it seems like a good idea to reach out and see what’s happening locally.
Loneliness is a big deal. Elderly people, stay at home parents, those without a social network. We can all suffer the effects of feeling alone. Community projects can help enormously.
Incredible Edible is a UK network of more than 100 groups, all using food to build communities. Each group has three core sustainability values. These are, growing edible produce for the community on spare land, training local people in cooking fresh produce, and supporting local businesses. They fully embrace “the powder of small ideas” to help build communities through farming, growing, cooking and eating.
The Abundance Network encourages neighbours to share fruit from trees that might otherwise be wasted. So not only do they save perfectly edible food, they promote a community spirit. A spirit reminiscent of days gone by when making an apple crumble and giving it to your neighbour was commonplace.
Over 90% of the fruit we eat in the UK is imported. If we made use of all the apples and pears that are ripe for picking in October, we could be self-sufficient fruit-wise, as a nation, for the whole of that month.
Brands Donating to Good Causes
1% for the Planet is a fantastic initiative. To qualify, brands must agree to donate 1% of their sales to support environmental and social projects. Pukka Herbs, who produce herbal teas and supplements are one such member.
They were empowered to join after learning that only 3% of global charitable giving goes to environmental charities. Last year, Pukka Herbs donated £425k to environmental causes. In part, this money helped support the charity Tree Sisters. Tree Sisters empowers women to replant trees and forests in tropical locations. These trees help restore the soil and protect endangered species. They also help liberate some of the poorest communities on the planet by providing an income.
Pukka Herbs also donate to the Soil Association who then launched a campaign to celebrate bees. The campaign encouraged the planting of bee-friendly herbs all over the UK to help bees thrive. By buying from Pukka Herbs, you’re directly supporting these kinds of initiatives.
We all need to eat. Unless we’re completely self-sufficient, at some point in the week, we’re going to need to food shop. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be mindful about it.
Where we choose to shop and what brands we choose to buy has a significant impact. The more we choose food brands doing good, the more the bigger brands will listen and be inspired to make change.
Don’t think that you alone can’t make a difference. A simple swap to Fairtrade tea or coffee means one less household supporting the potential exploitation of fellow humans. Talk to friends, use gentle persuasion and share your favourite ethical brands on social media – tag us in and we’ll spread the word too!
It can be all too easy for us to buy without thinking. Brightly signposted deals and flashy offers (that we probably don’t need) lure us in. We have the power to make more ethical shopping choices and have an impact on global change. Let’s all do our part for the sustainable food revolution!