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Sep 19, 2006



I love supermarkets. I'd rather go to a new supermarket in a new country than say Disneyland or a football match also Remember when the most exotic foods available were prawns or curry powder.

Most of the points about the excesses of the supermarkets have been made by others so I'll just cut and paste with links why I think Supermarkets are brilliant but are now inconsistent with a sustainable economic model.

Road Hogs

"Supermarkets use the roads intensively, to transport products from farms, ports and processing plants to their distribution depots and then on to stores. Food distribution currently accounts for up to 40% of all UK road freight. Supermarkets also encourage shoppers to travel by car."

Driving up emissions

The power of the big supermarkets to dictate prices, and their insatiable desire for supplies of cheap food means that to stay in business conventional farmers must continuously intensify. They are forced onto the treadmill and use ever larger amounts of fossil fuels"

Flying Food

Transport of food by air has trebled in recent years, causing a major rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Ostensibly air freight exists to provide consumers with a choice of out of season vegetables and exotic fruits. In reality it enables supermarkets to secure the cheapest prices for produce. In the UK, the average supermarket vegetable is estimated to have traveled about 600miles. One kilogram of New Zealand apples (brought to the UK by ship) and bought in a supermarket accounts for 300g of CO2, whereas one kilogram of apples from Kent sold in a supermarket has emissions of 120g. Norfolk apples sold at a local farmers' market, village shop or through a box scheme produce emissions of between 10 and 110 grams depending on how far and what mode of transport the shopper takes"

Wrapped up in oil

The vast majority of the food available in supermarkets is processed and also heavily packaged. Examples include breakfast cereals, bread, milk, cakes, biscuits, canned and frozen foods.

"In the US, small-scale, less mechanised, more bio diverse organic farming operations have been shown to use 60% less fossil fuel per unit of food than conventional industrial farms.

There's more on this at


Will we rue the day that fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms and truffle sauce is now ready to go at the local supermarket? It's funny how the British are so international when it comes to consumption and yet so parochial about integration when say joining the Euro is on the table.

The Germans and the Swiss are are much more "pragmatisch" about things like using bicycles to go shopping, and reusable bags as well as leaving excess packaging at the supermarket, plus recycling in general. I like them for that.

Bureau L'Imprimante

Well, if you wanna know what's the feeling about supermarkets in France, is that everybody hate'em, but everybody use'em.

Nathan Miller

I think they're bad and I don't buy organic deck chairs. My closest supermarket is Morrisons which in my opinion is the worst of the bunch. I get more packaging with my fruit and veg there than I get actual fruit and veg. It's forced wastefulness so that they can save time at the checkout by having everything barcoded and ready to go. I don't want to buy 6 bananas. I don't want to be forced to buy 2 heads of lettuce when I only want one. At 6pm the place looks like there has been some national catastrophe and everyone has stocked up for nuclear winter. The staff are useless, gruff, and generally rude.

When I have a chance I go to the local mediterranean shop, which has a more diverse selection. It's also cheaper with better quality fruit and veg that you can actually touch, feel, and smell. It's a bit of a trek to get there but I feel better parting with my money there than I do at Morrisons any day. And it's always nice to know the person serving you on a first name basis even though they aren't wearing a name tag.

Supermarkets are bad for all of the above and more. Nothing beats a farmer that's so proud of his apples he's passing out freebies at a local market. You won't see a supermarket doing the same with identikit quality controlled irradiated apples that were picked green in New Zealand and ripened on the way as that isn't really something to be proud of... they should be ashamed. I know I am whenever I shop at one.

Charles Edward Frith

I came back from Hua Hin recently which is where his Majesty the King of Thailand spends his time and gets away from all the political intrigue. The palace is called Klai Kang Won which means 'far from worries', but I digress.

There's a 7 Eleven right next to a mom and pop store which I've been expecting to close for years now from the competition of air conditioning, excessive lighting, international marketing expertise and all the other muscle that they have. The one thing that I can't work out is are the 7-11 staff so ambivalent about their work because they know that trying is not necessary, and do the Mom and Pop store treat me with civility and friendliness because they need to try to survive. I hope it's just because they are nice people but I give them my business at every opportunity and it feels good, as indeed recycling does for some strange reason.

There are also two shop house restaurants side by side in Hua Hin but I'll save that service anecdote for a more relevant blog.
Or maybe I'll send Seth Godin an invite so he can rant about how the Coca Cola was placed on the right side when he's left handed. Please no comments Seth because the monologue is your forte ;)

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