Sustainability Steps at Heritage Fine Foods
Reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle
Here at The Heritage Fine Food Company, we are keen to be as sustainable as we can be by reducing, reusing, repurposing and recycling as much as we can. We are constantly reviewing and introducing efficient working practices.
We look closely at the suppliers we work with to align sustainable practices as much as possible, as well as working closely with Grist Environmental Waste Solutions to ensure that we avoid as much as we can from going into landfill.
From farm to fork, here’s a look at some of the ways that we are working to be more sustainable.
Local and seasonal produce
Our boxes are made up from as much seasonal fruit and vegetables as possible to provide the biggest variety the UK climate allows, offering a way to minimise energy use in transportation and storage, increase freshness and quality and strengthen local individualism.
Sourcing from local growers and makers as much as we possibly can is really important to us at Heritage. We believe it helps to build more resilient communities, whilst supporting local food artisans and farmers alike. We have developed a collaborative approach to working with suppliers and investing in the local supply chain and can share forecast data for specific food items to help with their production plans and prevent overplanting. This collaborative approach in working with suppliers means treating farmers as partners rather than contractors and investing in the long-term sustainability of the supply chain.
All of our meat is British and purchased from the Lowerfields butcher onsite and our fish is sourced from a UK company who fish using sustainable fishing practices.
Sadly not everything can be grown in the UK throughout the year, for example, bananas and oranges, yet are of high demand from our customers so we look at the most sustainable ways to access these items.
Reduction of Food Waste
Research suggests that reducing food waste would be the third most effective solution to fighting climate change.
Over the years, supermarkets have put a focus on high cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables, leading them to reject even marginally imperfect-looking food from farms. To curb this food waste Heritage happily buys these products e.g extra-large beetroot, curved cucumbers, smaller squash etc that supermarkets would reject. This saves on food wastage and passes this on to our customers who can see through this practice of ‘cosmetically perfect produce’.
Additionally, given the perishable nature of fresh food from time to time, we do end up with a small amount of produce that is just past its perfect date. Instead of throwing out food that can’t be sold sometimes, it is shared with our staff if still okay for human consumption.
If past human consumption some food waste is sometimes given to our local Lowerfields farm animals who love and appreciate it.
Food Waste to Energy Recycling
The UK throws away around 15 million tonnes of food waste per year (Defra/WRAP). Much of this food waste is currently sent to landfill sites where it is broken down into methane and carbon dioxide, both powerful greenhouse gases that contribute significantly to climate change.
All our leftover food waste is collected by Grist Environmental Waste Solutions to create live biofuel.
Acceptable material includes Fruit, Vegetables, Vegetable peelings, Plate scrapings, Teabags, Coffee grounds, Apple cores, Banana skins, Meat, Fish, Eggs (including shells), Pasta, Milk, Dairy produce, Bread and Cakes, and any organic waste.
The material is delivered to one of three local Anaerobic Digesters at Codford Biogas,Geneco and Malaby Biogas which allows the organic material to decompose in chambers where no air is present (Anaerobic=No air). The decomposing in an anaerobic environment produces methane as a by-product of the process. The methane is then pumped out and burnt in CHP (Combined Heat and Power) engines, which produce renewable and sustainable energy in the form of heat and electricity. When the process is finished the digestate, which remains may be used as an organic fertiliser on local farmland too.
Reduction of food packaging
Buying local and seasonal food reduces the need for unnecessary packaging, minimising the negative impact on the environment from the current large scale disposal of inorganic waste, wherever possible we receive our fruit and vegetables unpackaged.
However, some packaging is necessary to protect food during transportation to us. For example, bananas are picked when they are green and should ideally be kept at a temperature of 13-15°C degrees for shipping. Much colder than that will turn them rotten. Before they hit the produce department, they are placed in an air-tight ripening bag filled with ethylene gas. This sealed plastic bag acts as a barrier to keep out oxygen and delay ripening.
Where we do receive packaged produce, wherever possible the use of reusable packaging is used/promoted.
We currently use plastic containers to deliver produce to our customers, these can be reused time and time again saving on waste and can be left outside by customers for collection (unlike cardboard boxes).
Where we receive produce in cardboard boxes from suppliers we will also reuse these, when these have come to the end of their life they are crushed and sent to be recycled again with Wiltshire Waste.
Where our poly cool boxes become too damaged to use these are also crushed and sent to be recycled.
Reduction of paper usage
We are always refining our processes to ensure that we are as paper-free as possible, however where we do need to print we use sustainable printers.
All our inventory and picking systems are paperless. Our pickers use tablets to choose produce from the warehouse for our customers. It also enables us to make systems even more efficient within the warehouse itself by identifying any gaps or issues quickly.
Transportation is a key element in any supply chain but it takes on added importance in the food industry, especially with products that must be refrigerated.
All our vans are Euro 6 compliant which are the cleanest diesel vehicles on the road, the vans also use AdBlue, a solution added to fuel to reduce emissions further.
Organising routes to minimise distances driven
Our Logistics Manager works with route planning software to carefully plan our daily drops to maximise efficiency, we may be less flexible in terms of not offering timed slots but our deliveries will work out to be much more efficient. By combining lots of customer boxes into one journey we are also saving all those customers from shopping in their own vehicles.
Wherever possible we use our own vehicles to pick up local produce on the way back to our warehouse after our own deliveries. Backhauling eliminates/reduces empty truck miles, as the longer a truck travels without freight, the more money a carrier loses on overhead costs.
Promoting health and well-being and teaming up with customers to reduce waste
Lots of people struggle with what to do with leftovers. Changing habits with regards to throwing away food is a long-term undertaking. Many people also don’t eat the recommended minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, childhood obesity and other food-related illnesses are on the increase. At the same time, 15% globally go hungry while in the UK we waste approximately one-third of all food. A sustainable food system is about health and well-being for all – individually, locally and globally. Heritage is working hard to encourage its staff and customers to eat well with a link up with a nutritionist and offering regular recipe suggestions, including our eat well for less regular recipes.
Encouraging the next generation and their parents to eat more healthily
Here at Heritage we are passionate about fruit and vegetables and love encouraging youngsters to eat more healthily. We’ve put together a leaflet for primary school children to engage with them and hopefully their parents too. In addition we have two areas on our blog devoted to Eating healthier for less and a nutritional area which includes a series of blogs called Project munch which provides lots of resources and ideas to help encourage healthy eating in children.
View and download our Food Superheroes leaflet here