28, March 2023
Indie Spotlight: Food Loose, Cheltenham
For this month’s Indie Spotlight, we’re heading to Food Loose refill store on the edge of the Cotswolds. Located in the spa town of Cheltenham, the popular shop is a hub of the community. We spoke to Hannah from Food Loose to find out more.
Tell us about you – when did Food Loose open and what inspired you to set up shop?
We’re a community benefit society refill shop in Cheltenham, predominantly run by a team of passionate volunteers. We were initially set up four years ago by four women who had attempted to do Plastic Free January and realised that modern food shop shopping made the task impossible. Beyond the shop, we go to events, holding stalls and giving talks to educate people on why and how to shop plastic free.
What’s been the most surprising or unexpected thing about running your business?
How lovely all the customers are and how willing they are to take a bit more time over their shopping, make a little mess in the process (spillage is all part of refilling!) – and enjoy the community atmosphere of the store.
Talk us through your product range, how do you select which brands and products to stock?
We stock a variety of dried loose foods: rice, pasta, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses, lots of yummy vegan snacks. People are always surprised by how much we can fit into the shop! We try to stock as locally as possible, supporting independent companies where we can buy directly from the supplier. We go through a stringent product selection process; we try to sell predominately organic products, checking the ethics of the company before we buy from them. This all takes a bit longer [than regular buying] and can add to the price, but it means that when you shop with us, you can be sure that the products come from companies doing good in the world.
We love that you put a focus on zero-waste and refills, are customers receptive to changing their shopping habits?
Our customers are all incredibly receptive and are glad they have an option to shop without plastic. It takes a little while to get used to the idea as it's such a juxtaposition compared to ‘normal’ food shopping. But we tend to find that once customers start, they keep coming back as it turns shopping into an experience and they become part of the shop’s community.
What are your favourite Faith In Nature products / your customer’s favourites?
Faith In Nature is one of our customers favourite brands! They always get excited at our huge range of aromas we have, with some people even bringing in their own branded bottles to fill up. Our customers' favourite Faith In Nature products are the Grapefruit & Orange Body Wash and the Orange and Coconut Soap bars. These are the original varieties we had when the shop first opened and have remained people's number one choice.
What do you love about your local area?
Cheltenham is surrounded by the Cotswolds so there are amazing spots to escape out into nature at every opportunity. We are incredibly blessed to have some amazing parks that the community takes pride in taking care off so all can enjoy.
Where is your go-to nature spot?
I personally have a special spot near my house which is on a ley line. A group of friends have recently planted a crystal to raise the energy of the town, and it’s a place I go to whenever I have a big decision to make.
What is one simple sustainable swap someone can make straight away?
The easiest one I can think of is to make your next toothbrush bamboo. I think that starts the ball rolling on questioning how much plastic is in your life.
Any exciting plans for the future of Food Loose?
We have just managed to crowdfund for a new shop in a better location that is way more accessible, so it’s an exciting time for us. Aside from that, we’re currently working on getting a new website to make refill shopping online super easy for our customers. We are constantly trying to do more and to collaborate with businesses, schools and community groups. For example, soon we’re looking forward to having a dress on display that has been crafted entirely from waste products by students at a local school.