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How it should be

Alternative supermarket open in Brighton

Alternative supermarket open in Brighton

Supermarkets have become so predominant in British food shopping that there’s little room left for anything else. Traditional stores have struggled to compete, leaving an oligopoly of mega-retailers and shoppers facing a dwindling choice of alternatives.

hisbesisters320And while the fortunes of individual stores may wax and wane, supermarkets as a whole continue to grow their share of our spending. A report by the Payments Council issued last year found that 58p in every retail pound was spent in supermarkets in 2011. The figure has increased from 46p a decade earlier and marks an all-time high. And every pound spent in supermarkets is another nail in the coffin of independent retailers, further compounding the vicious circle.

“hiSbe helps people on average incomes and everyday diets make choices for a more sustainable food industry.”

Founder Ruth Anslow

Retail revolution

But a new wave of supermarkets are springing up across the UK, outdoing their conventional alternatives on quality and ethics, and driven by doing the right thing, not just making money. Pioneering the new approach in Brighton is hiSbe, which opened its first pilot store in December. The brainchild of sisters Amy and Ruth Anslow, the ethical supermarket aims to make the food industry fairer and more sustainable. hiSbe’s name, and the whole philosophy behind it, stands for ‘how it should be’. Founder, Ruth Anslow, explains:

“We think there is a need for a new type of supermarket that puts fair and transparent trading practises first and sources food in a responsible way. hiSbe helps people on average incomes and everyday diets make choices for a more sustainable food industry.”


hiSbe’s shelves are filled with good food which is as local, healthy, natural, ethically roduced and as thoughtfully sourced as possible. Equally important is a commitment to convenience and affordable prices. All branded products are sold at below the recommended retail price and are priced to cost the same or less than local supermarkets. “We’re aiming to get good food into the mainstream by putting all the wholesome stuff in one place, providing the right amount of information for “We think there is a need for a new type of supermarket that puts fair and transparent trading practises first and sources food in a responsible way.” Ruth Anslow, Co-founder, hiSbe

Crowd together

When access to conventional funding wasn’t possible, hiSbe enlisted the community’s support to raise the £200,000 needed to build and stock the pilot store. “The reality of starting a supermarket from scratch meant we had to get creative,” says Anslow. “Being a start-up social enterprise made it very difficult to get investment from the traditional high street banks, so we came up with a funding model that mobilised a large group of people to help make hiSbe happen.” The money came from a mixture of crowd-funding, selling shares and small loans from individuals. Additional financial support came from Gordon Roddick, co-founder of The Body Shop and a Triodos Bank loan. For hiSbe’s co-founders, the store is just the start, with ambitions of developing a brand that makes it easier for consumers to use their influence to build a better, fairer and more sustainable world. “hiSbe is just the beginning”, says Ruth, “but we are excited that at last people are using their ‘shopper power’ to vote for a better food industry!”

Project CV

Prior to founding hiSbe, Ruth Anslow worked in sales and marketing roles for large corporate organisations including Unilever and Sara Lee. She became increasingly frustrated as she discovered the extent to which the food industry is motivated by shortterm profit. For Amy Anslow, her passion for ethical trade grew as she realised how few people had a clear understanding of Fairtrade and what it stood for. Together Ruth and Amy got thinking about the lack of transparency and sustainability in our food system and as a result started hiSbe Food, a self-funded Community Interest Company. Founded in 2010 to shine a light on the food industry and champion food campaigns, hiSbe opened its pilot food store in December 2013. Shoppers, showing them where their money goes and crucially, reducing the premium prices associated with quality food,” says Anslow.


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