full circle interviews social supermarket

We sat down to ask www.socialsupermarket.org all the burning questions we had about their drive to make every product have a purpose.

Question 1: Where did you get the inspiration from to set-up the Social Supermarket?

Jamie’s work in the Corporate and Social Responsibility sector had given him exposure to these products and he quickly became aware that there was no platform through which everyday customers could buy these unique and impactful products. Jamie teamed up with his university friend Alex to form Social Supermarket in September 2017. It started its life as a directory helping people find social enterprises in the UK. As our drive to continue promoting social enterprise increased, we launched the online store, alongside another friend Matt, in October 2018 and have been growing ever since…

Question 2: Please describe what The Social Supermarket is, what you offer and why you are different? 

Social Supermarket is an online marketplace connecting every-day consumers with social enterprises who sell high quality products that tackle important social and environmental challenges. We offer a range of unique products with impact; from handbags made from decommissioned fire hoses to soap made by people with visual impairments to relishes made with wonky fruit and veg, there’s something for everyone. We are on a journey to become the most comprehensive marketplace for social enterprise products in the UK. To be the first place that people look for products that change the world for the better!

Question 3: How long has The Social Supermarket been going? Please tell us about challenges you’ve faced setting it up and some of the high’s you’ve achieved? Do you feel industry is geared up to manufacturing ethical products on mass?

Social Supermarket in its current form has been going since October 2018 and we have come a long way since then. We launched with just 100 products and 10 Social Enterprise brands but we now cover more than 41 brands and 500 products. Our main challenge has been growing the awareness of these social enterprise products; people often attribute social enterprise with charity and assume they are buying these products because of the cause and not the uniqueness and quality of the product. We are working hard to put these elements at the forefront of our mission, ensuring people are aware of these products as viable alternatives to the everyday, whilst also having a great social or environmental impact. The industry is growing rapidly and many of these social enterprises are hugely successful businesses within their own right. Ethical products are now at the forefront of consumer’s minds and the industry is gearing up to be able to react to this demand. 

Question 4: Do you think there has been a change in recent years as to how consumers understand the products they buy? (e.g. their origins, impact etc.) Who would you say are the most eco-minded group within society? What’s the typical demographic of your customers?

Absolutely, being conscious of the source and impact of the products consumers buy is one of the most fantastic transformations we have seen in society over the last decade. Consumers increasingly understand that they can have a great impact on social and environmental issues through their purchases. This change has gathered pace over the last decade and whilst it was once only reserved for a narrow demographic, it has since expanded meaning we now see a wider variety of ages and backgrounds purchasing social enterprise products. Our partnership with the UK student body TOTUM (previously NUS Extra) is a great example, demonstrating the demand amongst the student population for these products. 

Question 5: Why did you choose to become a social enterprise and what does it mean to you?

Becoming a social enterprise was the obvious choice for us not only because we believe it represents the future of business but reinvesting our profits into promoting these brands will help further their exposure to new customers and markets. We hope more and more organisations will register themselves as social enterprises and continue to use their business processes and profits to benefit social and environmental causes. 

Question 6: Do the suppliers of your products have to adhere to a certain supply chain criteria and if so please elaborate on that. Who are some of the best manufacturers you work with and why?

Absolutely, we identified early on that it was important that our suppliers meet certain criteria when sourcing, manufacturing and distributing their products. To ensure these criteria were met, we teamed up with the wonderful Good Market who help certify certain supply chain areas of our brands, giving consumers comfort that the brands meet minimum standards. 

Question 7: Where do you see The Social Supermarket in 3 years’ time?

In 3 years time, we want to have significantly increased the number of consumers who have bought and used social enterprise products, whilst also continuing to help provide a platform through which social enterprises can showcase their wonderful products! We don’t have any hard or fast targets we are sticking too; we are nimble enough to evolve as the industry grows and just knowing more people are loving social enterprise products is enough for us!

Question 8: Do you feel the future is bright and if so why?

Absolutely, it’s incredible the shift we have seen towards the awareness of how products are made and the increased care we must have for our planet and people! We’re just at the beginning and we don’t see the momentum fading anytime soon…


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