What was the inspiration behind setting up local box NI?
A few years ago, myself and my partner were researching shopping locally because we were interested in reducing our food miles and packaging waste. My partner and I were always disappointed with the produce in the supermarkets, it’s not local or seasonal and there is so much waste linked to using supermarkets. We also found it too time consuming to travel round to multiple shops to get all the local produce we wanted. This resulted in us signing up to vegetable box schemes and we immediately saw our landfill waste decrease and thought we could produce something similar
We saw an opportunity to bring more local groceries to more people, if we wanted it then others must do too. We work on the ethos that there is no one perfect solution to our food system problems but we want to work transparently with producers and customers to find a solution that works.
Who provides food for your local boxes?
We have a supplier list on our website which can be accessed here. We put a lot of time and effort into deciding which suppliers to use; we have a scoring system and grade suppliers on geography (or location in Northern Ireland), taste, and production values/ethos. It’s a huge balancing game but, for us, the quality of the product and location are the most important. The amount of plastic packaging is also really important to me, and is a huge deal breaker when deciding to work with a supplier. I also have to look at demand, obviously.
Who buys your local boxes?
Its quite mixed, but the majority are women, and there is a split between two distinct groups. People looking for a foodie experience who shop for treats or gifts, or who want to try lots of different foods that are harder to source or they don't know about. Then there are people who are regular weekly shoppers and who use Local Box as part of their grocery shop. Usually, this group of people are looking for high quality produce that is better sourced and local.
Have you seen an increase in interest in sustainable food since the pandemic?
We started at the beginning of the pandemic, so it’s hard to say, but people definitely care about buying local which, I think, could have been boosted by the pandemic. I speak to so many people about sustainable food because I love to talk about it but I’m not sure that’s everyone’s reality, but everyday the movement grows. There’s lots of things to be positive about. I can see lots of engagement in the food movement.
What are your best sellers?
Crisps from O’Donnells have always done amazingly well, we try to take the crisp packets back and recycle them through Terracycle to reduce the plastic waste (although we get just less than 40% back). Cavanagh eggs are always popular too, as well as Barnhill apple juice, and bread from Bara Bakehouse. Really, all our suppliers do well through our scheme.