Wahoo! The Isle of Wight has finally joined the middle class, and a branch of Waitrose has opened in East Cowes, of all places. A few years ago our only Volvo dealership closed down and, frankly, most people still won’t venture across the water as far as Ikea, even if you can actually see it from the ferry. So Waitrose setting up shop is something that will get the yummy mummies chattering happily for sure.
The Ranger was pleased to see the new shop was touted as “the most ‘green’ supermarket in Britain“. Amongst other innovations, it appears that “the store will be supporting three local suppliers â€” Goddards Brewery, The Garlic Farm and The Tomato Stall“. Only three? Sounds a bit feeble. But surely Waitrose is the epitome of all that is worthy and green? Isn’t it? The Ranger went along to find out. Waitrose’s own website appears impressively green, and gushes environmental earnestness. But the words themselves give less comfort:
Our buyers seek out the finest local and regional products our country has to offer. Working in partnership with small producers, Waitrose helps boost the economy in many rural areas and its customers get to sample the very best foods made locally.
Doesn’t actually make any commitment about local provenance at all. Or even suggest any active support or encouragement at all. Could do better here.
Where possible Waitrose buys British…
That ellipsis doesn’t really give confidence, does it? And ‘wherever possible’? OK, that’s quite a high standard to set – perhaps in their first week of opening, the greenest store in Britain can actually achieve that. I wandered in, dodging East Cowes’ be-Barboured toffs who were looking with slight alarm at the bloated sportswear-clad peasantry – both groups curiously united by a common interest in the new shop. It didn’t take long to find the big sign “Celebrating regional food”. It took a bit longer to actually find any regional food, though, and even longer to find any local (Isle of Wight) food. Here’s a helpful annotated diagram:
Well just look at all those apples – all French or South African. It seems that “buying British where possible” doesn’t include getting British apples in November. I guess the Dutch rhubarb might be just about excusable, but just four bags of Sussex spuds is a pretty poor offering in the most ‘green’ supermarket in Britain. Sorry, Waitrose, you’ve got some great pancetta and all that, but your localist rhetoric is not matched by your actual stock. You know you can do better than this. And just in case you think you can’t, take inspiration from the shelves of a local Co-op corner-shop just a few miles from your new store. Yes, a humble corner shop, one of many similar around the Island:
Isle of Wight potatoes, cakes, garlic, cooking oil, beer, water, and apple juice. Also not in the picture but probably the most popular food item bought in the shop: all milk in this Co-op is Island-produced. Not just ‘regional’, or even ‘British where possible’, but from the Island, and in a shop you can walk to. That’s local provenance.