Category Archives: What do our customers want?

Kids’ veg challenge: the results

This summer, we asked children up and down the country to join our veg challenge, to discover whether kids really do know their carrots from their kohl rabi.

We’re very encouraged by the results, that suggest that not all children think that milk comes in cartons or tomatoes in tins.

The big news:

  •  On average, children aged 3-11 recognised over 80% of the fruit and veg we asked them to identify (everything from carrots and potatoes to kohl rabi and globe artichokes)
  • Three quarters said they eat at least half of the fruit and veg; 4% said they eat them all; only 5% said they eat less than a quarter of them
  • Carrots are the favourite and most commonly eaten veg, then sweetcorn and broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts are the most disliked veg, then courgettes (try our chocolate courgette cake recipe!)
  • Children of Riverford customers ate a wider range of ‘weird’ veg like kohl rabi and fennel than those of non-customers. We think this backs up our theory that the more engaged with your food, the more likely you are to eat it.

Thank you (and congratulations) to the kids who took the challenge.
If you need ideas for feeding the kids and getting back into a healthy routine after the holidays, swap tips and recipes on our Riverford Cooks site.

Questions to the cook

We’re starting a new blog – questions to the cook.

Is there anything in your vegbox that is left in the fridge too long or would you like some more ideas?

Ask us any questions about cooking, preparing, or storing the fruit, veg, and anything else you get from us. Post them here on the blog and we’ll pass them to our cooks to answer in the next questions to the cook blog.

Strawberries and plastic: are tunnels worth the eyesore?

Over the last twenty years the huge majority of the UK strawberry crop has moved from open fields to the protection and intensification afforded by hundreds of acres of polytunnels, largely in Kent and Herefordshire. Plastic can advance a crop by perhaps two weeks, but the great advantage is the protection it gives from the vagaries of a British summer. Fruit must be picked dry to avoid bruising and to give a reasonable shelf life. Even more importantly, persistent dampness leads to a build-up of fungal disease, particularly botrytis, which can reduce a good berry to a foul tasting pulp in a matter of hours.

Our strawberries are grown extensively on high ridges at wide spacing which, in a normal year, gives enough airflow to dry dews and rain before botrytis sets in. There can be no doubt that polytunnels are a blot on the landscape; the question is whether they are justified by the economic and environmental benefit they bring by reducing wastage, extending the UK season, excluding exports and thus reducing food miles. For twenty years I have stubbornly persisted with growing outdoors, with the result that we have a relatively short season and, over the last few years, have not been able to pick up to a third of the fruit. Initially I was convinced that growing outdoors gave better flavour, but now I am not so sure and wonder if I have been overly dogmatic in my resistance. Across the five regional farms we would need eight acres of tunnels to provide a good supply of strawberries for the 45,000 homes we deliver to each week. Your views would be welcome.

Guy Watson

Plastic crates: the conclusion

Thanks to everyone who replied to our question about charging a deposit for the plastic crates.

A lot of you who replied are against the idea of plastic crates and would prefer us to stick with cardboard. We would have to charge a deposit if we used plastic crates and a lot of you are against that. Unfortunately we would expect around 5% of the crates to go missing – which would be double the cost of the boxes as things stand.

Many of you would be happy to pay a £5 deposit, but no more than that. We now have a quote for fold down crates at £7.50 so the deposit would be more than a lot of people are willing to pay. This would be a massive and risky investment for us and after reading the replies, we have decided to shelve the project.

Once again, thanks for all your feedback.

the plastic crates debate

A few weeks back we asked you what you would think if we moved to a returnable plastic box. Thanks to everyone who responded – we had over 200 comments. The original blog post is here and to remind you:

  1. We get about four trips out of a box.
  2. Around half of the boxes are used for other things and the other half get too damaged or dirty.
  3. Although they’re made from 98% recycled materials, being reused four times and being recycled at the end of their lives, the boxes still make up 10% of our carbon footprint.
  4. Our research suggests that a re-usable plastic box would result in a reduction in emissions of about 70%.

Responses

  • 33% say it sounds like to right thing to do.
  • 28% would leave it up to us to do what is best.
  • 24% really don’t like the idea but would accept it.
  • 13% were not convinced by the CO2 argument and are against the idea of plastic boxes.

A lot of you mentioned that the boxes need to fold down to save on space, which would be a bit more expensive but would be worth it. Some of you worried about what would happen to the plastic crates at the end of their lives. We could get them made from most if not all recycled material and if they were returned to us at the end of their lives they would be 100% recycled.

One more question

We would need to charge a deposit of between £5 and £10 which would be added to your account when we deliver and removed when you return a box. How would you feel about this?

Ethical business – what does it mean to you?

Guy & Lucy

Not only did we win Best Ethical Business at the Observer Ethical Awards, we also got to meet Colin Firth… But what is an ethical business? We’d love to know your thoughts.

Here’s a short film about Riverford shown at the award ceremony.

(photos by Alicia Canter)

organic bread

Town Mill Bakery

Town Mill Bakery

We have had many requests for bread to be available alongside our boxes and we’re pleased to announce that it’s on its way to customers in the Hampshire area. It will be freshly baked by Town Mill Bakery in Hook, Hampshire, first thing in the morning and delivered to you the same day.

We went along to see how it’s done. Town Mill even let us loose on the bread rolls – fear not, the expert bakers at Town Mill will be baking your bread!
Watch the video and see the artisan breadmakers (and us amateurs) at work.

the mud debate

muddy carrots

There is no doubt that unwashed roots retain their protective skins and keep better. I live a muddy life, but having cooked in some of your kitchens I am wondering if I have been excessively dogmatic about the stuff; would it be better for us to do a quick wash (as we have the last few weeks when the carrots have been very muddy)? If kept in the fridge and eaten within two weeks I think the effect on flavour will be negligible. It would also help us to reduce packaging because there would be less need to contain dirt and the boxes would stay clean(ish) for more trips. If you would like to share your views on this topic, we would be very interested to hear what you think.

Guy Watson