The director of a Cornish food company has personally undertaken a “supermarket-free” challenge, in a bid to encourage more consumers to buy locally.
Ruth Huxley, from Cornwall Food and Drink, and her family took part in the experiment, trying to buy as much of their weekly grocery shopping from local independent businesses over a six-month period, and avoiding supermarkets where possible.
The challenge was part of the ongoing Choose Cornish campaign, launched last September by Cornwall Food and Drink and Cornwall Chamber of Commerce to boost the local economy and encourage people to make more use of the businesses on their doorstep.
Cornish food and drink plays a vital role in the local economy, helping it grow at a faster rate than any other part of rural Britain. According to Cornwall Food and Drink, the value of the food and drink sector has doubled over the last decade, now approaching the £2 billion mark and delivering 6% of Cornwall’s GDP.
Throughout the duration of the challenge, one of the most significant discoveries that the Huxley family noticed was the considerable savings they were making on a weekly basis.
The figures showed that they were regularly saving at least 10% and sometimes 20% on their weekly grocery bills. It was also revealed that the lower the proportion the family spent in the supermarkets, the less they spent overall.
The process has also changed the way the family thought about their shopping habits.
Ruth explained: “Although the price of many individual items was higher in our local shop than in the supermarket, we weren’t being distracted by all the promotions and special offers which meant that overall we simply bought less.
“We had to learn to look at the final bill rather than getting hung up about individual prices. We also found that buying fresh Cornish produce was really good value, particularly from the local butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers.”
For both Ruth and husband Dave, there were many other benefits to shopping locally. The ability to order online from Cornish suppliers or use a box scheme was favoured due to its simplicity.
The increased level of human contact also made a huge difference for Dave and Ruth. In comparison to the often solitary nature of supermarket shopping, going to farmers’ markets and talking to local shop keepers was a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience for the couple.
The family have found that they spent 13 times more with local businesses than they had done on average before. The family have not reverted back to their previous routine, where approximately 90% of their grocery budget was spent in the supermarket.
As Dave said: “I’ve come to like my weekly shopping routine so much that I’ve simply continued it.”
“We use the supermarkets when it makes sense,” said Ruth. “Picking up the odd item now and again or topping up midweek, which is a complete reversal of our previous way of shopping. We are still spending more than half our grocery budget with local businesses week in, week out.”
Dave, who was sceptical at first of the idea, has now been truly converted. After visiting towns across Cornwall, he would document all his experiences online through the Choose Cornish blog.
He said: “My immediate reaction to Ruth’s suggestion was that it was going to be another burden on our already busy lives.
“However, I soon discovered that although there is a bit of shopping around initially to find suppliers with the range and type of foods that you’re after, once you’ve got your favourites, shopping locally takes no longer than ploughing up and down the aisles of a supermarket. In fact, it’s often quicker.”