Drawing on work commissioned by The Co-operative, the Food Ethics Council is today publishing a discussion paper on seasonal food and supermarkets.
Government, campaigners and celebrity chefs are encouraging people to eat with the seasons. In the words of Eat Seasonably – a government-backed initiative – this means “better value, better taste and a better deal for the planet”, whether you grow your own or you buy it.
Since the majority of food is bought in multiples, buying seasonal food, for most people, means buying it from a supermarket. Many of the UK’s main food retailers back Eat Seasonably. But does in-season food from a supermarket – where most people buy most of their food – live up to the promises that are made for it? Is it really better for the planet? How should a responsible retailer respond to the calls for them to act on this issue?
In this short paper we examine the evidence and make recommendations. Significantly, we propose that supermarkets should consider greater seasonal variation in their product ranges as one possible outcome – not a goal in itself – of a concerted strategy to improve the environmental and social footprints of their supply chains.
We recommend that seasonal marketing should be seen as one of a package of measures that retailers can take to help match demand to variability in supply. It should be carefully monitored for its effectiveness in promoting wider objectives of campaigns on seasonal food, including green citizenship and healthy eating.