The Emergence of Social Supermarkets in Britain

09 July 2018

Within the wider context of growing 'austerity retail' - or what the authors call initiatives with a retail approach that aim to address the needs of people most affected by austerity - there is the emergence of social supermarkets (SSMs).

This report, by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University, presents the results of the first systematic investigation into SSMs in Britain. Their numbers have been growing since 2013 and SSMs have been found to be located particularly in areas lying within the 10-20% most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK.

SSMs primarily sell ‘food surplus’ (and some non-food consumables) that is not considered sellable in mainstream supermarkets for various reasons, such as mislabelling, damaged packaging, excess stock, food deemed aesthetically unacceptable (e.g. blemished fruit and vegetables); and, those near or past their ‘sell by’ or ‘best before’ date. Prices are heavily discounted, often symbolic, and the target consumers are those on low-incomes. Social support in various forms (for e.g. skills development, training, debt advice, cooking classes) is also provided. SSMs therefore illustrate a particular type of response to food poverty and food waste challenges. 

The report looks at the variety in organisation, aims, function, and sustainability of SSMs as well as the intrinsic contradictions within the SSMs model.

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Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation 

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