Guy’s news: I just couldn’t eat it all myself

When I started packing veg boxes on a cow shed floor in 1993, my assumption was that our customers would be (or at least should be) just like me; same chaotic cooking style, same approach to life, with an equally messy kitchen and the same hungry family to feed. Such egocentric lack of appreciation of household diversity and contempt for the marketing process was a flaw from the start, but seemed to serve us remarkably well for many years. When I finally learned how most people cook I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe how little veg they ate, so, as a committed veg nerd it became my mission to spread the word. As the legendary Welsh drug dealer ‘Mr Nice’ reputedly said in court, “I never meant to sell the stuff; I just couldn’t smoke it all myself ”.

25 years on my household has shrunk, as has (mercifully) my appetite and ego. I still think most of you should eat more veg, ideally stuff that we have grown, but I now fully see the virtue in listening to you and meeting you halfway. I hope we will always be unashamedly opinionated in our veg enthusiasm and try hard to nudge our customers towards veg-centric, seasonal eating, but how we do that needs to be better informed to achieve the greatest impact. As such we need your guidance on how many cauliflowers we should send you in a winter; how many aphids are acceptable per lettuce; whether we should offer flexibility in delivery days; and if it is fairer to charge for delivery and drop the minimum spend. Our plan is to recruit a panel of customers who are happy to participate in forums and polls on such topics. You can join in as much or as little as you like, so if you might be interested please contact the delightful Polly via research@riverford.co.uk.

Many people claim to eat seasonally but so few actually do it; we have twice before had a ‘UK-only’ box and twice dropped it when uptake failed to reach 1%. Last autumn we tried again and maybe we are getting better at it, as sales topped 3% this time, so we are much encouraged. As we enter the hungry gap we cannot muster eight UK items with any degree of rotation so we are suspending it for a few weeks; rest assured it will be back in June and we will be nudging all of you to try it.

22 responses to “Guy’s news: I just couldn’t eat it all myself

  1. Do you think as the climate changes that a U.K. Box will be more viable?

  2. Wish was as self-aware as you Guy! I’ve been having a UK only box most of the time since you introduced it recently. I have to admit that I’m not 100% Uk box as some weeks I just cannot cope with more potatoes, onions and beetroot! We eat quite a lot of rice and pasta so don’t always want more of the same veg. But it is my default go-to box. I’m also a very tidy (obsessionally so) cook and lazy to boot so although I cook from scratch every day, hate the hassle and mess of hours of prep including de-bugging! Have volunteered for your customer survey stuff although not sure how representative I am.

  3. I think the panel is a good idea. I’m quite chaotic in the kitchen, though ever ready to try new veg and new recipes.

  4. In April we became vegetarian in the week (driven by our 9 year old and allowed meat at the weekends which has doubled our vegbox order. We’ve had the UK only box this year and since March I’m back on the salad boxes again. I love salads as long as it’s not full on winter. Before that I enjoyed mixing the boxes- so fortnightly no roots etc. I’m no chef but being more veggie has meant we must be more creative as we are also no grains, pulses or cows cheese due to allergies. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and am happy for the improved environmental impact too. I’m going to volunteer to as I strongly believe in your ethos and whilst like Andrea we might feel we are not representative of many (is there such a person?) we’re happy to give feedback.

  5. Getting a box and doing my weekly shop online at Riverford has changed my world! I LOVE it and every Tuesday is like Christmas for me as I open the door to see all the goodies that have been delivered.

    I would say I am highly-organised in the kitchen but am so happy with the change in approach that buying from riverford has brought about. I used to write a weekly menu and then make a food shopping list from that so that I knew we only bought what we needed and would not waste anything (I have a phobia of wasting food!). It was a practical approach but seriously boring to execute! Getting a box has injected some much-appreciated excitement and creativity into my approach! So thank you!!!! Still no waste but just a bit more thinking on my feet and a more dynamic approach to what works with what when it comes to putting a meal together. Veg is always at the centre of our meals, and the main event; I feel starved and dissatisfied if there is nothing green or vegetable on my plate, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. the fact that the veg we are eating is now organic and sourced responsibly means we can enjoy it in a way that we never did before.

    I did get a riverford box a few years ago for a short time but only came back to it recently and was interested to see how much it has changed and grown. It was a surprise to see that things come minus the mud and often packed in plastic bags; at first I turned my nose up and judged…but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate why. I have a young family and if I’m honest with myself then the extra time and energy spent scrubbing mud off veg is an extra step in the cooking-from-scratch process that might have ended up being a deal-breaker for me. I’m ashamed to admit it but it’s true. I guess I’m a good example of why it’s important to meet people halfway. I’m certainly grateful that you have taken that approach. You will be making a bigger contribution and bringing about more change by doing so I am certain. Thank you again for all that you have done and continue to do. Also very happy to participate as part of the panel of customers.
    – [ ]

  6. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Everything is great. Tastes so much better than anywhere else. I would buy the UK box if there was a small one with 6 items. I can’t use a medium box for just two of us. Happy with the small boxes you offer. Great value.

  7. On the matter of boxes, a one-off customised, set of 2 plastic boxes that we buy once might be an idea. I try to be ‘green’ but a choice of colours wouldn’t go amiss.

    I had a ‘UK-only’ box a few times but found it difficult because I don’t do well with onions and hate beetroot and on one occasion it contained 4 items that I can’t eat or don’t like, we need to be able to select 8 is it? items from a list. It’s not diverse enough really.

    As many aphids as you like, I’m not a lettuce eater 🙂

  8. We’re recent Riverford converts, so it was interesting to find out the problems you’ve had with getting the 100% UK box going in the past. Looking back through our order history, we haven’t picked that box as often as perhaps we might like, probably largely on account of beetroot avoidance (sorry beetroot fans).

    If you want to try and sell more UK veg (a good cause for sure), one thing we’d certainly be interested in would be a “90% UK box” with maybe just one green, leafy thing from France/Spain to inject a bit of variety – we really do want to be green but there’s only so many root veg recipes we can cope with! And of course, the ability to swap out the beetroot but I recognise that might be a bit of a nightmare logistically.

  9. Charlotte Smith

    Very happy to provide feedback, but will somebody read it? I stopped ordering milk a year ago, because it repeatedly went off well before date on packet. I e-mailed because I do care and hoped the feedback would help you sort the problem. In response I received a marketing e-mail trying to flog me Riverford insulation. This just proved to me nobody read my e-mail. Otherwise they would have known I didn’t need that. Apparently, my info was forwarded to the dairy, but haven’t heard anything since. (see e-mails 2.5. and 13.5.16 to David Richards and help@etc)
    As far as caulis are concerned: Bring it on. Cannot have too many. Leeks are great too – I put them in anything from soups, stews to tomato sauce. Aphids – what aphids? Should I put my glasses on when washing the salad?

  10. Will be signing up for the customer panel, but see this as a continuation of the feedback we’ve provided through email at help@riverford. On those occasions we have had cause to complain, it has been dealt with efficiently and effectively with no “standard” responses, and most of the complaints we have made have meat items. We have had the UK box on a few occasions but too often it has squash, too much salad (not good for weekday evening meals) or beetroot (we like beetroot but not every week). And we’ve never had problems with the milk other than the occasional leaky bottle! Finally, having been with Riverford for 12 years, we believe there ought to be a bit of flexibility with the boxes ‘cos we often buy individual veg items instead of a box because of one item we don’t eat – usually squash or artichokes. The ability to substitute one or two items would be very useful.

  11. We only started getting your boxes in December and it has changed our diet for the better. We have been mostly vegetarian for many years. We get the UK box once a fortnight because it would be just too much veg for two people weekly. I have only gone for an alternative box once , when I had a carrot mountain already. I normally make a big veggie stew and have got used to the redness of it when I have put beetroots in it. I don’t mind the washing and the prep.
    I will be happy to join your panel.

  12. I love the recipes but am too busy to make them. Can we have some easy quick recipes. I am happy with the boxes 90% of the time but occasionally would like to replace an item that I cannot eat.

  13. Nk the quality of the produce is superb. I would be very happy to be on a panel — great idea
    We had friends to dinner last night, one pf your 2kg chickens with veg and cauliflower cheese – 6 of us ate a whole cauliflower. I have eaten seasonally for years and aim to use every single thing that arrives.
    I am not very good with alliums generally sadly socannot always order a UK box – if I cool leeks or onions really slowly they are usually ok and don’t cause problems.

  14. Dr Philip M Peverley

    I used to get the UK only boxes (they weren’t REALLY always 100% UK) but then got shunted onto the medium veg box, which is still damned fine. I wasn’t aware that the UK boxes are back.

    I regard the veg boxes as a hobby and a weekly (or more recently fortnightly) challenge. I don’t really want the option to be able to pick the contents because I enjoy the challenge of working up recipes to use up whatever arrives. I pride myself on never throwing anything out (although kale. KALE! I wouldn’t miss that if I never saw it again).

    • Jacqui Tatnall

      Oh but I love kale …and purple sprouting broccoli. Would rather not have bananas as have an allergy and hubbie can’t eat the!

  15. I second much of the others comments, and will sign up for the research. Riverfords weekly delivery has been a revelation for me and has revolutionised my eating. I currently get a weekly ‘less roots’ box and veg is at centre stage of all meals. I couldn’t cope with potatoes (or beetroot!) every week but I might try alternating boxes so that I can have the UK box some weeks. Some tips on how to maximise UK fruit use would be helpful.

  16. As others have mentioned, it would be good if the UK-only box came in a smaller size and/or a ‘less roots’ option as I live & cook on my own and rarely eat potatoes. I definitely support the principles of buying locally and eating seasonally so always consult the ‘Box Contents’ page to see where items are produced before making up my own box with as much of a slant towards UK produce as possible. I’ve evolved a system that works for me and enjoy making up my weekly selection, but appreciate not everyone has the time to take this approach.

  17. I would definitely buy a small UK only veg (and fruit?) box. The current size is too large for me to have weekly and I didn’t want to get the current size one only fortnightly as I would be worried about the veg I’d kept for the second week going off by the time I came to use it.

    • Jacqui Tatnall

      We often have boxes over two weeks and never have a problem with food going off! A little tired maybe but still yummy!

  18. As someone who has been ordering from Riverford for 15 years and always spends well over the minimum spend for free delivery, I would not be happy to see the minimum spend dropped and a delivery charge made for all orders. Your present policy of charging for the delivery of low value orders seems a fair and reasonable one to me.

  19. Love the uk box, even though are just the two of us, we use the box as well as the recipe boxes. I like going to the time when only veg available was that in season. At dinner time, it would be up the garden to pull up, cut the veg needed.The recipe boxes are tasty and we do tweak them sometimes if cooking them again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *