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Scotland's first organic supermarket

Scotland's first organic supermarket

Scotland’s first social enterprise supermarket open its doors this Friday, May 18th.

Locavore Grocery, run by Soil Association licensee Locavore CIC, occupies almost 2000 metres of prime retail space on busy Victoria Road in Glasgow’s Govanhill. It is bigger than the local Tesco and Sainsbury’s, with only Lidl boasting a larger store in that area.

Its focus is on selling local, organic products, loose where possible (including Scotland’s first urban milk vending machine), meeting a growing demand for environmentally friendly and socially conscious convenience shopping on the high street.

One step towards "a more sustainable food system"

Reuben Chesters, managing director of Locavore, says: “For us this is a massive step in our journey towards building a more sustainable food system. A larger store with more footfall means we can grow the market for our local, organic and ethical producers. It also gives people the opportunity to purchase affordable food that is so better for the environment and the local economy.”

Supermarkets tend to beat smaller stores on price, but Reuben says the bigger scale allows them to be competitive. “We’ve actually been open for a month, trialling and testing things, and we’re already selling 100 litres of organic milk (at £1.10 a litre) a day from Mossgiel dairy and 100 loaves of organic bread (£2.66 a kilo loaf) a day. Dried pasta is £1.05 for 500g and organic tinned tomatoes (from Italy) are 60p.” Wholesale arm Locavore Trading imports sustainably produced and organic products from further afield when they are not available locally.

Shopping fast and loose

Milk for the vending machine arrives in a tanker daily straight from Mossgiel farm in Ayrshire. Shoppers use a glass bottle deposit scheme to take their milk away, or bring their own container. “People are really enjoying that - we’re two to three times above projection already,” says Reuben.

Spices, beans and other “bits and bobs” are sold loose, which takes a bit of getting used to, and there are eco household products too. “Quite a lot of people coming in for the first time are a bit apprehensive - stuff is loose, and it’s not brands they recognise, but they are coming back! Our customer base is getting really diverse.”

The store also sells lots of fresh produce – kale, salad leaves, tomatoes, chard - from Locavore’s market garden sites at Neilston and former tennis courts the Croft in Queen’s Park. Neilston growers produce 30 crops over 2.5 acres. “Being able to grow fresh greens close to the store is part of their value – to avoid refrigeration and transport costs,” says Reuben, who is looking for more city centre sites to grow food on.

Locavore also supplies organic veg boxes once a week to East Renfrewshire primary schools through our Food for Life scheme.

Can social goals benefit the local economy?

Overall Locavore employs 45 people (30 of those full time) on a living wage, between the wholesale operation, shop, café, veg box scheme and market gardens. Any profits are ploughed back into the Community Interest Company (CIC). “We’re always trying to do more,” says Reuben. “We want to help build a sustainable food system. At the moment, the economy benefits supermarket shareholders, not suppliers, employees or society, and bizarrely, government policy supports that. We’ve got to a point where people can’t afford proper food. Our goals instead are social goals.”

With Locavore set to turn over more than £2 million this year, perhaps social goals can make money, too.