Paul Hill spoke to Kate Hofman, founder and brand director of GrowUp Farms
PH: What sustainability work are you doing in the wholesale channel?
KH: Our newest farm, Pepperness, in Kent, has been built on a disused brownfield site, creating the equivalent of 1,000 acres of Grade 1 farmland in our vertical farm. As the UK currently imports around 70% of its salads(1), Pepperness will save over two million food miles a year and help strengthen the UK’s food ecosystem.
Energy has been another big challenge for vertical farming. We’ve developed a new way to power our farm, using completely renewable sources. This reduces the amount of energy we need by more than 40%. Our business model helps to build resilience into the UK’s wholesale supply chains, while using technology to measure and improve all aspects of our environmental footprint.
Why should wholesalers work with GrowUp?
On our farms, we create the perfect conditions for growing salad, 365 days per year. Our plants don’t have to fight pests, diseases, drought or flooding, and are provided with all the nutrients they need as they grow. The result is fantastic-quality food that stays fresher for longer, delivered at an accessible price.
What trends and opportunities are emerging that customers can take advantage of?
Bagged salads are convenient to use, fresh and healthy products, which fit the consumer trends of plant-based eating. But consumers throw away about 35% of the bagged salads they buy, which wastes food and money(2). GrowUp’s bagged salad stays fresher for longer and 64% of bagged salad consumers said they would buy more bagged salads if they knew it would stay fresher for longer(3).
By using renewable energy, GrowUp farms have reduced the amount needed by 40%
What challenges has GrowUp had to overcome in the past year?
Rising energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis has hit food prices more than ever, and shoppers want to avoid waste wherever possible. They want more variety and versatility in fresh food while knowing they’re getting value for money.
Supplying great-quality food with an even better shelf life has never been more important, and GrowUp is tackling this challenge head-on. We are continuing to apply our knowledge and expertise in controlled environment production to deliver more value and better products.
What would you like to see happen in wholesale in the next 12 months?
We would like to see more collaboration and engagement along the supply chain in both directions. Talking to customers about what problems they need solving, as well as working with growers and suppliers to innovate and find solutions.
That might seem a stretch during such challenging economic times, but it’s more important than ever to work collaboratively to deliver great-quality and more sustainable fresh produce to customers while meeting their price expectations.
What advice would you give wholesalers looking to grow sales?
Wholesalers have such an important part to play in the UK’s sustainable-food system. By collaborating with suppliers on sustainability initiatives and by bringing more affordable and sustainable products to market, wholesalers have a real opportunity to help drive the transformation of the British food system.
This has the potential to change everything from improving affordability, reducing environmental impact and getting even more great food to people’s plates.
(1)Defra Horticultural Statistics, (2)WRAP, (3)Attest Consumer Research