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24 MARCH 2019


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Tuesday, 05 March 2019 13:53
Urban farm concept being explored by Waitrose and John Lewis

There is something a little sad about the announcement from Waitrose and John Lewis that they are working on the concept of ‘urban farms’ in their stores that will enable customers to pick their own produce.

The joy of harvesting is the achievement of growing, the freshness of being outside and the knowledge that what you are going to put on a plate has been grown healthily and will be good for you.

Anyone with a veg garden will know that growing food in a store can’t possible work on a major scale. One tomato plant produces a handful of tomatoes at a time, but only every few days. A patch of salad leaves will quickly become exhausted after a few snippings. Cucumbers and courgettes, although prolific will only present the grower with one or two items at a time.

While the idea may introduce the concept to children of things actually growing on plants, and lead to more initiatives to green up urban areas, it is unlikely to tackle the really big problems of an over reliance on plastic packaging, food waste and the resources needed to grow our food.

Will it reinforce customer loyalty? Now that is a big question.

John Lewis and Waitrose proved the attraction of simple loyalty with their free coffee and a newspaper, and their tea and cakes loyalty offers. Waitrose has established its reputation as the place to go if you want something special like fresh turmeric or organic produce. But is pick your own going to add a huge amount to their brand message? Aren’t there better ways to emphasise a keenness to protect the environment and meet their customers ever changing needs?

Our customers’ demands are changing. This is a certainty and there is a strong trend for more natural, fresh and wholesome produce. It would also be marvellous if we could green up our cities and towns. But soil-free, “aeroponic” growing systems in stores? Really?
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