This blog post was written by Minseok Ryu, first-year Neuroscience and Psychology student at King’s and member of the King’s Climate Action Network.
Staff and students from the Sustainability Team (Jone, Jaydeep, Avash and Minseok) visited our new fruit & veg supplier on July 3rd to find out what makes them “more than just a greengrocer”. In March 2023, King’s Food held a veg and fruit tender where potential suppliers were assessed on – among other things – their responses to a set of sustainability questions, including product sourcing, food surplus, organic and Fairtrade certified produce, and carbon footprint measuring. Reynolds’ answers stood out.
12:00 Sustainability Overview
We start off with a delectable buffet to satiate even the most jaded appetite inside the ‘Avocado Room’ reserved for meetings which, to my dismay, is not entirely made of avocados. The vegetarian sandwiches subvert my preconceived notions with their authentically chewy texture, leaving me to chew on whether I should change my diet for good. Project Associate Nick Reynolds – one half of generation four within this family business – presents a high-level overview of company operations as relates to sustainability. One particularly noteworthy initiative in this vein is the recent introduction of reusable crates to replace their wasteful cardboard counterparts. To our delight, more than half of Reynolds’ clients – including King’s – have embraced this environmentally friendly scheme, returning the plastic boxes to the distribution centre at the end of the day. The only ones not joining the crate party are those tightly secured locations like airports, where even fruit and veg get patted down for guns.
13.00 Site Tour I
We are given hi vis vests and safety boots to wear with pride. It makes us sharp and confident, remarks Jone, instantly instilling a sense of team spirit as we leave head office. Stepping outside, we gain a glimpse inside their all-electric vehicle fleet boasting the latest monitoring gears to keep an eye on tyre particle pollution, in turn delivering significant emissions savings across the UK. Entering the warehouse, we are transported into the intricate world of grocery stack management. Towards the back, some of the potato piles attempt to channel their inner Leaning Tower of Pisa as they break into sweats in skewed fashion. The original potato supplier has evidently cut corners by reducing the thickness of its cardboard packaging, resulting in mouldy, damp produce posing a danger to Reynolds’ workers. An employee tags it bright red – rejected. Declared not fit for commercial standard, Nick explains they will back charge the farm source alongside a stern warning to improve delivery conditions as per contract.
13:30 Site Tour II
We are soon joined by several of his colleagues upon moving base to the quality control lab. Here, various equipment, such as an avocado pressure sensor, actively test the viability of randomly sampled produce to vet only the finest fruit and veg growers before Reynolds can safely sell them onto customers.
14:00 Site Tour III
A walk-in fridge greets us next, where we get to see (and touch!) live lobsters, swimming so serenely as if to silently indicate – much like how my Cambridge bestie can’t help but “silently” drop the C-bomb at the club – that they reliably hail from MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified sustainable fisheries. Strolling into the labyrinthine freezer further afield, breathing in the hauntingly refreshing air chilled at a nice and crisp -18 °C, there’s only one thing left to do to fight the numbing cold:
Next time I bite into my juicy avocado salad in the canteen, I’ll be sure to remember the behind-the-scenes efforts of Reynolds and their extraordinary dedication to our environment. Certainly, they’re not just a greengrocer – they’re the pioneers of greener transport, the protectors of pristine produce, and the guardians of a more sustainable future at King’s and beyond!