How Small Food & Drink Producers Can Become More Sustainable


At the time of writing, COP26 is underway and our collective impact on the planet is top of mind for many of us.

We’ve written before about the importance of brands committing to sustainability. Consumers increasingly prefer brands who can demonstrate a genuine commitment to environmental causes - two thirds of consumers have said they support carbon labelling on products, so they can make more informed choices. 

This is something that is affecting retailer purchasing decisions, as we can see from our own internal data. We carefully monitor trends across our platform so that we can help our brands keep on top of buyer desires, and sustainability is clearly an important one.

That’s reflected in what our food and drink producers offer.

79.4% of brands on our system offer some kind of renewable or sustainable packaging:

  • 38.9% use  recyclable packaging
  • 19.1% use plastic-free packaging
  • 9.3% use biodegradable packaging
  • 4.3% use renewable packaging
  • 4.3% use upcycled packaging
  • 3.5% use zero waste packaging

Becoming more sustainable is, of course, an ethical issue, especially in light of COP26. But it’s also a sound business choice - the most sustainable brands will give themselves a better chance of attracting consumers who are increasingly focused on reducing their carbon footprint. It won’t be enough to simply react to compliance - the most successful brands will see sustainability as an opportunity and proactively seek ways to improve. 


What ShelfNow Brands Are Doing To Become More Sustainable

Depending on the type of produce, there are 100s of ways a brand can reduce or offset its environmental impact. From reducing fossil fuel use, to reducing water consumption, to overhauling packaging and recycling waste. 

Zero waste shops are a rising trend - there are now more than 200 of them across the UK - so it’s very important that  producers, where possible, ensure their products will work in that context.

We’re proud to stock some truly innovative brands that are finding interesting, creative ways to ensure their produce is as environmentally-friendly as possible. Rather than post an endless list of ideas, instead we have selected a few of these brands that will hopefully give you some inspiration.

ChicP.  ChicP aims to reduce food waste by using surplus, wonky vegetables to create (delicious) hummus. They point out that ⅓ of the food produced in the UK is never eaten, and one of the best things we can do for the planet and humanity is to reduce that waste.

Hoogly Tea. Hoogly makes a range of teas from exclusively ethical sources. Their tea pyramids are fully biodegradable and are certified by the Soil Association as being completely plastic-free (they’re made from plant extracts).

The Yorkshire Pasta Company. The Yorkshire Pasta company makes frankly amazing pasta, and does it in an extremely environmentally-friendly way. They use only locally sourced flour, and feed their cattle food waste. They have solar panels to provide all the farm’s energy, and use only paper packaging and paper tape on their parcels. 

Gilt & Flint Beer. Gilt & Flint are one of only 30 organic breweries in the UK. All the by-products of their brewing go straight back into feeding the free-range livestock they share the land with as well as growing crops.



It’s likely that brands will come under increased pressure to improve their sustainability in the next few years - both from governments imposing new regulations, and consumers demanding it. So it’s a good idea for brands to start exploring ways they can lessen their impact on the planet while still making great produce.

We hope that the examples above can serve as inspiration - it’s an area of innovation that many brands are pushing in interesting directions and we can’t wait to see what comes next.