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A Better Future Thanks to Great Ideas from the Past: How the lockdown sparked a sustainable shopping evolution

With one third of all food bought in Britain – 6.7 million tonnes* and a vast amount of household packaging wasted thrown away each year, never has David Attenborough’s entreaty “Don’t waste anything” seemed more urgent. Recycling and waste reduction is something the Cryer family, owners of Fieldfare Foods, have championed for the last 40 years with their unique frozen food brand.

“The business began in the late 1970s when my parents had the idea of selling fruit and vegetables loose from the freezer and encouraging customers to bring their own bag or container to put it in. This enabled the customer to buy exactly the quantity they wanted, of the best quality produce, irrespective of the season, without any unnecessary packaging” says Anna, a former Vogue fashion editor and eldest of the three Cryer children who, with her two brothers and a small, passionate management team is now involved in taking their parents’ vision for the company forward.

 “It’s a sort of year-round riff on PYO” she continues, “We used to love strawberry picking when we were little – kneeling by the plants and competing to see who could fill their basket quickest. Fieldfare simplifies that process – you pick up a scoop and serve yourself with food frozen at its peak flavour that will taste delicious whether you eat it in June or December!’

“Our first ‘shop’ was two freezers in a barn on a rural Kent farm, from which we sold peas, broad beans, strawberries and raspberries. Since then the range has grown enormously and now includes many more fruits and vegetables, French pastries, Yorkshire puddings, fishcakes, and lots of other nice things. Today Fieldfare products are available in hundreds of farm shops, delis and garden centres across the UK. Two important elements have remained the same, the ‘scoop your own’ concept and the use of minimal packaging.”

“After operating a successful business largely under the radar for many years, we began to think that this way of shopping may just chime with a new generation of shopper who is interested in a more sustainable lifestyle.” The lockdown proved them right.

“As soon as the first lockdown hit, we saw shoppers – some whom had never considered frozen before – turning to the freezer aisles to stock up on supplies. Frozen offered the perfect antidote to the uncertainty of when things would get back to normal, allaying fears of ‘running out’. Additionally, people started shopping locally and with many farm shops and independents stocking zero or low waste brands like ours, they began to consider the benefits of shopping more sustainably” states Anna. 

Due to its extended shelf life, frozen food has a natural advantage in the battle against food waste, but Fieldfare takes it a step further. Anna continues: “People often waste food because pre-packed quantities may give them no choice but to buy more than they  require. Our loose offering encourages them to take as much as they want, but not more than they need.”

Continuing to honour the strong values Richard and Ann Cryer first brought to the business, Fieldfare believes in making it as easy as possible for people to incorporate sustainability into their everyday lives, without having to compromise on quality and taste. “Products such as our prove-at-home pastries offer that authentic, delicious ‘fresh from the bakery’ experience and dishes such as our potato gratins, not only save a lot of effort in the kitchen, but because they are individually portioned, there are no leftovers going into the bin. It’s all about finding the balance and taking simple, but important steps towards helping to make every kitchen in the UK that little bit more sustainable with every shop,” says Anna.

Fieldfare products are available at a range of shops across Suffolk. Visit their website www.field-fare.com to find your nearest stockist.

TIPS FROM ANNA:

Things to do to reduce food waste:

  • Make a shopping list, and stick to it!
  • Make smaller portions of food
  • Be creative with leftovers
  • Cook food that is past its prime