Maria Slough on the search for vegan options
Over the last 11 weeks as we all stayed home during the early days of the Covid-19 Pandemic our behaviour as consumers has had to change. Overall shopping figures during Lockdown fell by more than a third in the month of April while online shopping grew by 60%, a trend that many retailers expect to stay with consumers for some time to come.
At the start of this pandemic my house limited ourselves to online grocery shopping and vegan pharmacy items but outside of our supermarket delivery both the VeganKind Supermarket and Holland & Barrett stayed open to their customers throughout the peak of this pandemic (albeit with some stock not available) but their dedication to keeping supplies to their customers has been heartwarming.
As the weeks have gone on and that desire for some retail therapy has returned I started to delve deeper into what was available to me as a vegan consumer and what areas of shopping mattered the most to me. More now than ever living a healthy lifestyle is vital as is getting quality rest and sleep and looking after your skin, but as all our worlds are for now narrower and we continue to adapt to a lifestyle which prohibits close contact with anyone outside of your own home I felt myself leaning towards the need for some comfort items, so over the last few weeks reached out to various companies to see what options are available to the vegan consumer.
My first port of call was Clearspring (https://www.clearspring.co.uk/) as I tried to source some tamari covered almonds to send to our family vet who was working throughout Covid-19 as a frontline worker. Their marketing manager Jag Singh had a box of almonds delivered to the vet team within days and insisted on gifting them. Such compassion and generosity at a time when so many companies are struggling compelled me to learn more about this company.
The founder of Christopher Clearspring, Christopher Dawson, told me, "We are a family business and for over 25 years we have been committed to pioneering authentic, plant-based Japanese Specialities and Organic Fine Foods. It all started in 1972 for me. I was in New Zealand, aged 19, when I came to a stark realisation; the country at the time had a population of just three million people but there were nearly 60 million sheep. If humans are at the top of the evolutionary pyramid, with the most developed digestive system, why are we slaughtering animals for human development and destroying the natural landscape in the process? It was the beginning of a journey that has spanned over four decades, from founding the business in 1993 to the Clearspring of today."
Clearspring has developed a uniquely diverse range of organic and sustainably produced Japanese and European fine foods that are enjoyed throughout the world and their founding mission is to work for a sustainable future for all.
Christopher continues, "This range will keep expanding with my own children's involvement in building Clearspring for the future, constantly turning one more acre of land back to organic cultivation as they go. Being 100% plant-based is a big contributor to sustainability and whilst we are a judgement-free business, we believe that if everyone can increase the amount of plant-based foods they eat and reduce their meat intake, as a collective, we can reduce our impact on the environment. An Oxford University study, published in Science Magazine reports that meat and dairy production is responsible for 60% of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions, whilst the products themselves provide just 18 per cent of calories and 37 per cent of protein levels around the world."
As part of their commitment to sustainability, Clearspring is following the Soil Association's lead and aligning their packaging strategy with the UK Plastics Pact. The Pact is an ambitious and collaborative initiative led by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) http://www.wrap.org.uk/ which has set bold targets to make a massive impact on the amount of plastic used in packaging by 2025.
"We have already made some impactful and innovative packaging upgrades. The entire Clearspring Organic Japanese Tea Bag range has received a packing refresh and the packaging is entirely sustainable. Our new Organic Atlantic Sea Vegetables range is also 100% sustainable. Not only is it sustainably sourced, but the outer carton is 100% recyclable and the inner pouch is made from home-compostable cellulose from wood-pulp, which comes from carefully managed plantations.
They'll join our existing ranges in glass jars and tins which are fully recyclable in most areas of the UK. It's a work in progress for Clearspring with more exciting packaging updates to announce later this year."
I asked Christopher if lockdown had affected his service. "Whilst it has been challenging, we have managed to maintain a full service - with our team and our suppliers going above and beyond the call of duty. The Clearspring team have acted in unison, supporting each other and it has been truly unprecedented and humbling. We really hope that when things come back to some kind of normality, the growing interest in sustainable plant-based foods continues to blossom. The increasing number of people who are now turning to a plant-based diet has been most welcome by us all at Clearspring. Whilst there has been a huge explosion of vegan products on the market, it is important for us to continue to champion truly wholesome and nutritious plant-based foods.
One last thought from Christopher on plant-based living and being a vegan consumer: "Wherever possible, I speak at events or to individuals and businesses to champion the benefits of Organic and plant-based foods. Leading by example is a significant part of my individual commitment to sustainability. I shop Organic wherever possible and have had a plant-based diet for a very long time which I have encouraged my family to follow too. Advocating for Organic and plant-based foods is part of that mission."