Some time back I was offered Natoora's Spring Box for review.
(I know this post is a little late, given that the box arrived in late May, but it took us a little time to use the contents and also coincided with a really busy period for me, food blogging wise, with lots and lots and lots of restaurant reviews, events, cookery book reviews and more to write and post!)
I have to say that we were genuinely shocked when the box arrived. We really couldn't believe the huge volume of packaging for the small selection of fruit and vegetables inside! I knew they would be using a courier for delivery, rather than their own distribution network, as we fall outside the area they currently cover themselves. But still, we were taken aback. I went back to Natoora and asked them about it as we do try to reduce the amount of waste we produce, as a household.
For London deliveries where we use our own drivers and vans and have more control we use simple brown paper bags. For deliveries by courier as you rightly presumed, we need to protect the produce more. We have tried to reach a middle ground between being able to keep the products fresh and intact whilst in transit and using the minimum amount of packaging. The components of the inflated liner and the ice packs make sure that the produce is kept fresh. The liner can be deflated and put in the bin and the cardboard box recycled. We decided on the liner because…
- In production just 4% of the raw materials are required for the liner versus the equivalent Styrofoam packaging that would be needed to send your order
- Before inflating the freight and warehouse space required for the liner is just 10% of that required for Styrofoam
- Landfill is significantly reduced
But I'm still keener on the packaging used by some of their competitors. For example, Abel and Cole use (much smaller) cardboard boxes for their fruit and veg (and styrofoam boxes for meat, fish and dairy) but, more importantly, they encourage customers to return boxes from previous deliveries to their delivery drivers when they drop off the next box, and they re-use the packaging as many times as possible before it disintegrates. Whilst I can see that their styrofoam boxes require more initial warehouse space, I also like how they are used many times, before being relegated to waste.
Being economical (both financially and environmentally) about waste doesn't just refer to reducing the volume and ensuring the materials are recyclable – it also means making the best use of packaging and insulation in the first place, before discarding it as rubbish.
Anyway, on to the contents of the selection box. I found them a little variable.
- The strawberries and potatoes were excellent. Proper, wonderfully flavoursome strawberries, the very best of what this fruit can be. Decent, fresh and tasty new potatoes too.
- The tomatoes ripened well on the windowsill and they too were then a good example of this quintessential salad fruit.
- Many of the pea pods contained grossly underdeveloped peas, which meant that the overall volume, once the entire bag was podded, was a very small serving indeed. But those we had were good enough.
- The asparagus was disappointingly woody, though apparently other reviewers sent boxes within the same 2-3 week period enjoyed theirs much more.
- The loquat were somewhat battered but I enjoyed them, having never tasted this fruit before.
- I passed the green leaves on to my mum, as we were running out of time to eat them, before they were past their best.
- I'm afraid I had no idea what the sticky stalked greens were as there was no information included within the box whatsoever. Natoora responded that most customers would already have read the full list of contents on the website before buying, but I still think a single sheet listing the contents would be useful. Apparently the sticky green things were bruscandoli (wild hops).
Whilst the spring box is no longer available, Natoora are offering a fruit box, a vegetable box and a mixed fruit and veg box. If you're a Londoner, in the area they currently deliver to themselves, it may be worth giving them a go – if you do, please let me know how you get on both in terms of quality of produce and volume of packaging!