How do you change a city’s eating (and shopping) habits? Set up your own supermarket…

Two sisters are aiming to change the way one city shops – and eats – by establishing a bold new ‘ethical’ supermarket as an alternative to the big retailers that currently swamp the area.

Ruth and Amy Anslow are hoping to swing open the doors to their new venture in Brighton & Hove this autumn. Called hiSbe – how it Should be done – the alternative supermarket aims to ‘promote and provide access to good food, so that many more people can afford it.’

The shop, which has been in the pipeline since 2010 when hiSbe was established as a Community Interest Company (CIC), will occupy a 3000 square-foot site in central Brighton.

‘Good food’, say those behind the venture, ‘means products that are as local, healthy, natural, sustainable, GM and pesticide free, fairly traded, high welfare, seasonal, minimally packaged, ethically produced and thoughtfully sourced as possible.’

‘Sustainable eating’ 

‘We live and die by our values,’ says Ruth. ‘We won’t be 100% organic but will be absolutely clear about our sourcing policies.’ Food dispensers will be used to cut down on packaging and staples – rice, pasta, coffee, sugar – will be sold in bulk, she says.

There will also be, Ruth continues, information displays on the issues connected to key products and its own unique ‘everyday choices’ programme for sustainable eating, encouraging customers to ‘go local’, ‘think welfare’, ‘end waste’ and ‘avoid processed’.

The shop will also act as an incubator site for other, ethical, micro businesses, with a number of ‘pods’ being planned to sit on the shop floor, including some with the capacity to offer take away food.

Although acknowledging that hiSbe prices on some items will not be able to match the cheapest fare offered by the big retailers, the shop insists it’s produce will be priced competitively in order to be able to serve the local community.

This could be the venture’s greatest challenge however. The area has three large supermarkets – Sainsbury, Co-op and Lidl – just a stone’s throw away along with numerous conventional convenience stores. Tempting folk away from those, particular in such economically challenging times, won’t necessarily be easy.

But hiSbe’s arrival is well timed, as its founders point out, with much regeneration underway in this less-than-glamorous ‘London Road’ area of the famous seaside city – the long neglected Open Market is being revamped, as is a major local park.

hiSbe is being financed by investments and loans, and is currently running a Buzzbnk crowdfunding campaign to raise additional finance for the shop, which the founders hope will be the first of several.

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