Sustainable retail: Australian zero-waste store looks to conquer Asia

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Australian zero-waste retail store The Source Bulk Foods is looking to take on the Asian market, promising a large variety of natural, high-quality whole food selections and a focus on localisation. ©The Source Bulk Foods
Australian zero-waste retail store The Source Bulk Foods is looking to take on the Asian market, promising a large variety of natural, high-quality whole food selections and a focus on localisation. ©The Source Bulk Foods

Related tags: Sustainability, Retailers, Australia, Asia

Australian zero-waste retail store The Source Bulk Foods is looking to take on the Asian market, promising a large variety of natural, high-quality whole food selections and a focus on localisation.

The brand opened its first store in Singapore in July this year, and according to franchise partner Sarah Widjaja, it is looking at first expanding in Singapore with some 10 to 20 stores before moving on to the rest of South East Asia.

“We have 51 stores in Australia, three in New Zealand, two in London, and this Singapore store is our first in the ASEAN region,”​ she told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“Although we are an Australian brand and most people expect us to resonate most strongly with expatriates here, we really want to also cater to the local market and be part of the local pantry shopping scene.

“This is why we are looking to set up all our stores near supermarket or other complementary food stores, cafes, gyms and so on, so that we can be nearby if pantry shoppers want to pop by after doing their regular grocery shopping.”

The Source’s first shipment to Singapore consisted of its top 300 best-selling products worldwide imported from Australia, but the aim now is to localise product selections and sourcing more closely to appeal to local shoppers.

“We’re now curating a product wishlist of sorts from local shoppers to find out what fits and what does not,”​ said Widjaja.

“Some of our best-selling items have been tailored and produced locally, such as our Yuzu Lavender and Cucumber Melon kombuchas, and nut butters that we grind on-the-spot.

“Australian-made best-selling snacks include our freeze-dried chocolate-covered strawberries and dried pineapples and mangoes, which have no added sugars or preservatives.”

The store operates on a zero-waste concept, which means that no packaging is provided except for paper bags and shoppers are encouraged to bring their own containers and bottles to purchase foods.

Also, it strongly encourages shoppers to sample all items before purchase, so as to adhere to their concept of ‘buy what you need’​.

“A recent study showed that the average food waste in Singapore stood at around 800,000 MT – we want to help bring this down,”​ said Widjaja.

“Here, all you need to do is bring your own bag or container, write down the code of your desired product on a piece of tape and stick it on, fill as much or as little of the item as you want, weigh your purchase and pay. We will weigh the containers prior and minus this out.

“There is no minimum weight purchase in the store, so shoppers can buy just a pinch of a spice or a handful of chocolates and be on their way.”

Quality, quality ,quality

In addition to local demand, The Source is also looking at highlighting more local and regional products, such as coconut sugar from Indonesia, cashewnuts from Bali or spices from India.

Responding to a query on how it will continue to stand out if the product selection gets more similar to local stores as it goes down this path, Widjaja explained that: “Our focus will be firstly on maintaining high quality, and we will also aim to be cheaper than other supermarkets and health food stores.”

“This also aims to reduce our carbon footprint in terms of transportation mileage and the like, but number one will always be quality – if a product imported from Australia is of higher quality than anything else we can find in the region, then this will take precedence. If the new product is as good or better, we will naturally go with that.”

New products incoming

The Source is also dabbling in a number of new product developments, which Widjaja is heading backed by her training as a professional nutritionist.

“We are working with local producers to create new products such as the ‘beauty ball’, a collagen-based protein ball, as well as the Harmony kombucha, which is an adaptogenic blend based on Ayurvedic principles, containing Indian herbs such as tulsi, amla and ashwaganda,”​ she said.

“The key for us is to make healthy eating and sustainable living as accessible as possible, and to do this, we want to make eating real food an easy undertaking for everyone.”

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