Countdown has become the first large New Zealand supermarket retailer to offer only 100% organic Braeburn apples nationwide, as demand for organics grows at more than twice the speed of the conventional market.
Braeburn is one of the most popular varieties of apples in New Zealand, with more than five million apples selling locally every year. Countdown’s decision to move to certified organic Braeburn is a major play to help make organic produce more affordable and accessible for Kiwis.
Research shows that eight out of ten New Zealanders buy organic products at least fortnightly, and 75% of those who are regular organic purchasers say they rely on certification to determine if a product is organic*.
Countdown’s organic Braeburn apples are certified by BioGro. Countdown is also in the final stages of becoming the first large supermarket chain to gain organic certification with AsureQuality across the majority of its stores.
Countdown’s Head of Produce, Steve Sexton, says Countdown is focused on developing its organic range, particularly fresh produce, to make organic cheaper and more widely available.
“Our customers are telling us that the core reasons they choose to buy organic are the taste, their health and a desire to protect the environment. We’ve been working closely with our organic growers for several years now and these relationships help us remove some of the additional costs of growing organic and pass these savings onto our customers through lower prices.”
Countdown’s supplier of organic braeburn apples is BOSTOCK New Zealand, which started growing organic apples in 1996 and is the largest organic apple grower in Australasia. Owner John Bostock says they have seen a significant increase in demand for their range of organic products both here and globally.
*Source: 2018 New Zealand Organic Sector Market Report, Commissioned by Organics Aotearoa NZ
Shop sustainably in the produce department
Meanwhile, Foodstuffs (owners of New World, PAK’nSAVE and Four Square) is testing bespoke certified home compostable bags in their produce, bakery and butchery departments. The trial is taking place in selected stores around the country.
“Foodstuffs will be continuing to push ‘going reusable’ in produce – we have had a solid range of reusable bags available in our stores for some time. We know our customers want us to help them do the right thing – but sometimes we all forget our reusable bags,” says Mike Sammons, Sustainability Manager at Foodstuffs.
“It’s fantastic there’s now a plant-based compostable roll bag alternative to conventional plastic that is both light and translucent for bagging apples, mandarins and flaky croissants. The home compostable bags can also be used as a barrier bag for butchery items.
“We’ve done a careful review of all the options available in the market – and we’ve landed on Compost Me bags made from corn to run an exclusive trial. The bags are third-party certified to break down into their natural elements in your home compost – this is then able to be used in your garden soil for growing plants. This is the biological side of the circular economy.
“With no kerbside collection for packaging certified to be only commercially compostable in New Zealand, the only bona fide option for these sorts of products is to ensure they are ‘home compostable’ for our customers. Home compostable packaging does not need the same heat to ensure it breakdowns.
“So the message to customers is reuse them as many times as you can and then home compost them. With the availability of soft plastics recycling being so limited, we believe this represents to best solution when married with the reusable bag option in our fresh departments,” says Sammons.
If the trial is successful Foodstuffs will look at rolling this option out nationwide.
Heidi Nixon is the powerhouse behind Compost Me. A finalist in 2019 MYOB Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Heidi has been striving for the last 10 years to develop solutions which are better for the planet.
Nixon says, “As a buyer for Foodstuffs many years ago, I was growing increasingly disheartened about the amount and calibre of the packaging going through our stores. I decided to throw myself into finding something that would work for customers, stores and the planet – and after a long hard slog I’ve found a solution. It’s so exciting that the trial is underway where customers at selected PAK’nSAVE, New World and Four Square stores will be able to access these bags when they get caught short. We’ll see how the trial goes, but I have a feeling it will be a great success.”
Mike Sammons adds, “Our focus will always be reducing waste. This means encouraging reusables, but we acknowledge people will forget bags and need us to help them out. They want us to provide a sustainable solution that aligns with the fresh food they are purchasing. We believe renewable certified home compostable products have a role to play in this space.”
Among other initiatives to reduce plastic use in store, like ‘Food in the Nude’ in produce and using different products for wrapping pallets, Foodstuffs is trialling BYO containers in several departments.
The business is actively working towards 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable private label and instore packaging by 2025.