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The guy behind Cape Town's first plastic-free grocery store

| Innovation and technology

Waste seems to be the topic on everyone's lips, and for a monumental good reason. Those who can't be bothered to get involved in minimising waste with something as painless as recycling, are likely to feel the wrath of their peers.

At this stage the issue of waste is unavoidable, and many are getting tired of having to be in a total pickle at the grocery store when half the items they need to buy are covered in sturdy (single use) plastic packaging. This is why Paul Rubin has started, Nude Foods, Cape Town's first ever plastic-free grocer. 

‘It was born out of personal frustration, and I think many Captonians and South Africans share that sentiment’ explains Rubin, who has partnered with friend Sherene Kingma for the conception of Nude Foods.

It's not hipster
There's a bizarre sentiment that such a store is deemed 'hipster' because it is a product of the new age. The concept is not trendy but rather wholly necessary, and a fundamental step in the right direction in waste reduction. The Guardian also saliently pointed out that this concept is not new, but a method familiar to our great-grandparents who shopped before the desire for pristine packaged plastic goods existed.

Set to open at the end of November in the East City precinct, Nude Foods will revolutionise the way Capetonians buy food. ‘I wanted to be somewhere in the city’ Rubin explains, ‘we needed to find somewhere that fitted what we were doing’. 

Initially also toying with the idea of Woodstock, the 100 square metre space off Harrington Street in the CBD became available and Rubin pounced, finding the innovative and burgeoning area appealing and fitting for their concept. ‘There’s a lot happening in that area’ he adds,  'there’s a strong appetite for independence with shops and traders’. He'll be in the company of other entrepreneurs like New York Bagels, and Truth coffee, as well as new art foundation A4.

How will it work?

Food will be stored and packaged in reusable containers and carriers like 100% cotton bags and glass Consol jars. These will be on sale at the store for customers to re-use each time they shop.

They will also be allowing people to bring their own containers, however, that could change as they are still assessing contamination concerns.

What will be on sale?

Non-GMO produce and dried pantry goods like lentils and legumes will be the main focus, with a small range of natural body and home products. They will also have some speciality items like fynbos-infused soup from Noordhoek, also working on a weigh-and-pay system.

How much will it cost?

Paul explains that their basic and essential goods, like produce and legumes, should be competitive with major supermarkets: ‘ a rule of thumb the prices are lower than their packaging equivalent'. It’s likely that these food items might be even less as Paul explained that the cost of packaged food owes about 15% - 40% of the cost of the packaging itself. Of course, the major benefit in terms of cost saving is that consumers can choose the exact weight of items they want, which will avoid the likelihood of produce ending up in the bin. This is at the crux of Nude Food’s mission, minimising waste in every aspect of food retail.

‘We are also not trying to create something that is only targeted at your affluent Capetonian' he adds, another objective of Nude Foods being its accessibility to the average Captonian consumer. To ensure this, they will offer both organic and non-organic options that are slightly cheaper, while all produce will remain non-GMO. They will also have recycled glass jars for those wanting a cheaper option to the Consol ones.


The future of plastic packaging

When probed on whether he thinks other stores will follow suit, Rubin said, 'I think it’s going to happen quite quickly'. Based on the response they have received so far Rubin thinks that it is likely that a lot of existing stores will start implementing reduced plastic packaging or offer a plastic-free option in their store in the near future.

Rubin likens this movement to the health food trend, ‘a couple of years ago, your mainstream supermarkets didn’t have much of a health food section, now it’s quite a prominent (fixture). I think the same thing will happen (with this movement) because the two trends are quite close together’. Rubin adds ‘as people start becoming a lot more conscious about what they are eating, they also become more conscious of how the stuff is packaged’.

Look out for Nude Foods opening at the end of November at 5 Constitution Street, East City Precinct.


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