Working with multiple London Boroughs, we use our retail expertise to help improve healthier food choices for people in low income areas.

We bring all of our extensive experience into creating a very simple and practical approach for local retailers, market traders and wholesalers.  Our network allows us to talk to individual business owners to senior directors in large wholesale companies. 

Improving the Food Environment | Convenience Stores, Markets & Wholesalers | Healthy High Streets

London Retail Expertise: Improving the food environment



As the Coronavirus crisis hit, it quickly became clear that the number of vulnerable people who could not access food was far higher than any of the existing structures supporting food insecurity could cope with. We helped Southwark create a generic shopping list and, through the Good Food Wholesale network, connected them with Bestway, the UK’s largest private Cash and Carry to access stock at lowest wholesale prices. Despite very limited availability, Bestway fulfilled an initial order of just under 3000 cases in less than three days which has gone on to feed 1200 vulnerable people for the next four-eight weeks. 


This model is being promoted as a solution to ensuring a diverse food supply in London and nationally and an answer for dealing with the exceptional volumes of people needing help. Sustain co-authored and published the report below.


We have helped promote this to The London Strategic Co-ordination Group and Sustain’s co-ordinator catch up with an audience of 40-50 key partners working on food provision during the crisis


We were asked by The Bermondsey Blue BID to support 15 High Street businesses to develop 12-month business plans one week before the UK lockdown was announced. We quickly adapted the brief to become a vital support network for these businesses. Within one week, we had created a Whatsapp support group for business owners to share their experiences and developed an online survey which was distributed to all BID members to assess the impact of COVID-19 on their business. We conducted phone interviews with each business to agree a High Street strategy. This focussed on three key objectives.


1. Keeping businesses safe 

We produced a suite of point of sale materials that were printed for free by one of the BID members and distributed them to local businesses. ​ We produced a dedicated page on the Bermondsey Blue BID website for COVID-19 and highlighted every business that was open.  We helped businesses access all available Government funding 


2. Move businesses who are closed to online 

We are identifying a strategy for each business to promote their business online. This is in the form of a business questionnaire. We will review their existing social offer, identify the gaps and help them create a compelling online offer to have them ready for the new normal. 

3. Supporting businesses that are closed. 


We checked that all eligible businesses had applied for funding and spoke to those who had not submitted an application. We agreed to not chase the levy to give owners the opportunity to re-open.


4. Home Delivery 


Business owners identified this as a clear benefit. Within two weeks, we had launched a service in partnership with Pedivan to offer FREE same day deliveries using zero carbon emission cargo bikes to local postcodes.  After three weeks, we have 5 members signed up, delivering  circa £600 per week of additional sales to customers.




COVID-19 has shaken businesses out of complacency but also given rise to many opportunities for long-term growth provided local businesses are bold enough to adapt. With the sudden loss of existing customers, many have been forced to react quickly to their new situation and find new routes to market. This has led to a fast-tracking of existing trends, especially the growth in online shopping by at least 3 years. This is no more evident than in South Bermondsey High Street, home to The Bermondsey Blue BID and its 96 High Street members. 


Instead of stopping the project when lockdown hit, we adapted quickly and within two days had set up a peer-to-peer support group via Whatsapp to provide local businesses with a support network. Businesses had been affected differently by the crisis and we adapted our advice accordingly from customer communication, applying for grants and loans to helping businesses go online. Using Online Marketing, Online Food Delivery Services and Home Delivery options many businesses were able to generate more income than they had before lockdown and created revenue streams that will continue long after lockdown is over.

The top line results from the project:


  • Engaged 25 businesses in and around The High Street. 80% agreed that they have seen improvements in their business as a result.

  • Delivered business review meetings with 19 business owners

  • Launched Home Delivery scheme from scratch in under three weeks with £1300 new business per week. Annual increase £67,000

  • Supported restaurants and cafes to launch online delivery offer.  

  • Set up and administered  Peer support Whatsapp group for 21 members

  • Created content for 19 BID Directory entries to improve their online presence  

  • Improved online marketing for 9 businesses by helping them to set up new websites and social media platforms

  • Double page local press ad to promote the High Street.

 - Georgina Kennedy, Business Owner, Yaa Assantewa

London Retail Expertise: Convenience Stores


Engaging convenience stores in deprived areas to sell healthier foods 

In April 2019, we were commissioned to run a Shop healthy programme as part of a wider Go Golborne initiative to reduce childhood obesity in a deprived area of North Kensington. 


We engaged with the three local convenience stores who serve this community and over a 12-month period, encouraged them to stock healthier options across a wide range of categories in-store, connected them with the local community and recognised them as Shop Healthy retailers for the commitment they made.


The results were 100 additional new lines, a 4% sales growth and a commitment from each of the retailers to continue their focus on stocking healthier lines. 18 months later and these lines are still stocked with new variants and categories also introduced as retailers see the commercial benefit of shopping healthier. 


It has been a pleasure working with Stephanie and the team to deliver an innovative project to support food businesses across North Kensington to stock and promote healthier products. They used their considerable expertise in retail sector to carefully shape plans and effectively engage retailers, ensuring that the work delivers on public health outcomes whilst also providing tangible benefits to the participating businesses.


 - Ellie Lewis, Bi-Borough Change4Life Programme Manager, Public Health

"I really benefitted from the category advice I received; I value the advice on what’s new in my categories and I would like to see more of that. The healthy campaign has been good for business and I feel more connected to the community. It has helped to stem the decline in my sales due to increased competition."


 - Mr Sarna, Retailer, Costcutter, 17 Golborne Rd

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London Retail Expertise:  Convenience Stores, Markets & Wholesalers




Funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’s charity, we worked with six convenience stores in areas with a high proportion of families on a low income in two areas of Southwark as part of Sustain’s Good Food Retail plan.


We developed individual action plans and agreed changes to product, range, space, layout and merchandising to increase the amount and prominence of healthier options. We were able to show a lot of learnings published in this recent report by Jessica Attard, Portfolio Manager, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity.


“We’ve been impressed by the results of a relatively quick and inexpensive trial and are using these learnings to inform what we do next. ."


 - Jessica Attard, Health & Wellbeing Lead, Guys and St Thomas' Charity


What was the brief?

Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity is an urban health foundation with a 10-year goal to reduce the childhood obesity inequality gap. They aim to do this by improving the food environment locally in Southwark and Lambeth, sharing what works with other urban areas across the world. They have an important role in the Mayor of London’s food strategy and support The Consumer Goods Forum Collaboration for Healthier Lives. They asked us to help them understand the role of wholesalers in improving the food environment. We knew from The Good Food Retail pilot that retailers are heavily influenced by their wholesaler in what products they choose to buy.


What we achieved 

We focussed on the area of Southwark for a local trial, using the Good Food Retail stores to understand:

  • their barriers to selling healthier options

  • which wholesalers they use and why

  • what mechanics could be used to influence their purchasing behaviours.

  • how wholesalers could promote healthier options to their retailers through in-depot promotions, depot layout, range enhancements and central guidance on new category trends, insights and new products available


We have now actively engaged with Bestway, the UK’s largest private Cash and Carry and Booker, the UK’s largest wholesaler to conduct a local trial and will be reporting on its progress over the coming months.


“It’s great to have Stephanie leading this project as she’s able to bring in her expertise and networks to engage wholesalers at a senior level.


The project is in its early stages but I’m excited to see the trials go live and to better understand wholesaler appetite for supporting local people to eat better ."


 - Jessica Attard, Health & Wellbeing Lead, Guys and St Thomas' Charity


July 2020 - we are delighted to have been named as one of the partners in developing the Fairer Food Southwark plan. 

With over 2 million Londoners already living below the poverty line and the onset of mass unemployment from recession time is of the essence to turn the tide. 

In a project championed by Sustain and The Mayor of London for Southwark Council we will be working with policy makers, councils and food suppliers to ensure that food can be made available to those that will so desperately need it.

Download the full action plan here.

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London Retail Expertise: Improving the food environment




In Jan 2020, we were successful in applying for The Good Food Retail fund, supported by Sustain and the Mayor of London, which allowed us to create a sustainable model for engaging with shops by training Council staff to deliver the programme.


We delivered a workshop with senior EHO (Environment Health Officers) which resulted in a training toolkit for use with retailers. 


“Healthy Shops is an important initiative which changes and challenges pre-conceptions that people won’t buy healthy food from convenience stores in traditionally deprived areas.


This work demonstrates that if healthy options are presented to the customer, then they will buy.

The shop owners, primarily driven by a profit incentive, are willing to continue with the scheme as there is an increase in profits. This is a very worthwhile scheme helping to combat obesity and unhealthy food choices at the shop level.. ”


 - Sharon Caine Senior Environmental Health Office, Food Safety Team  

Developing HCC model for convenience stores. 

“We were both so impressed with your work on the pilot. The shops we visited had made so many changes and I was impressed that one shop had seen a 5% rise in profits but was also providing more healthier food choices for the local community. ”


 - Tracey Muzyka Senior Environmental Health Officer, RBKC 

“Stephanie’s expertise has been invaluable over the last year working with London boroughs on their Good Food Retail projects. Her insight on what it takes to build successful relationships with store owners and managers, how to frame messages in a way that resonates with different audiences and knowledge of the sector has been a key to their success. Plus, she is a genuine pleasure to work with!”


 - Maddie Guerlain, Project Co-ordinator, Sustain 

London Retail Expertise: Markets


Engaging market traders to want to accept healthy start vouchers 


We have been working with market traders since 2012 and understand how to engage with them through practical retail expertise and business support. We helped to grow annual turnover of fresh fruit and veg by over £800k across three London markets, following a successful Portas Pilot in 2012-14, by engaging with 13 new and existing market stall traders to set up or improve their sales.


In 2016, we supported two traders to register for Healthy Start vouchers. Using our unique skill set of brand marketing and customer engagement, we identified the audience of parents at Children’s Centres and engaged parent volunteers to connect them through networking sessions with the traders.


We developed campaign materials to promote the scheme at the stalls that were practical and durable and helped the traders register. The trial was inexpensive, highly transferable and sustainable.


Today, the traders report weekly redemptions of 40-60 vouchers per week.

Our relationships with the traders are also enduring. We are hoping to work with traders to reduce their 1 million annual usage of plastic bags in partnership with WEN (Women's Environmental Network).


London Retail Expertise:  Improving the food environment



MEC’s client, Olaf Thon, is Scandinavia’s biggest shopping centre owner and they wanted to visit world class shopping centres in the UK to specifically understand the role of digital marketing. MEC were unable to fulfil the brief because they lacked both retail and digital marketing sector experience and local knowledge in the UK, both of which we could provide.

Rice Marketing researched, compiled and delivered an inspirational sector study tour for 22 senior management delegates, to inform the development of Olaf Thon’s strategy. This included a presentation and walking tour encompassing UK insight, with leading examples, leading edge technology, analysis of matrix of the sector, customer messaging across all media platforms and customer positioning.

The client found the study tour to be inspiring, informative and challenging, with all aspects of the logistics having worked well - in fact, so successful was it that we were asked to carry out a repeat study tour several months later. 

"Stephanie has a keen insight into the UK food segment. She is not only knowledgeable, but inspires through her market tours. She truly cares about the consumer and the retailers and making connections that will be a win-win. We had great discussions as we walked the city of London with Stephanie and have a list of ideas that will inspire innovation for our team."


—  Lyn Hochberg, Director of Product Development, Wawa


Wawa is one of the US market's leading convenience store retailers. Insight Research asked us to distil the best of London consumer and retail trends into a day walking tour for this leading global client. We were able to plan a route that was a practical demonstration of how food and food service operators were responding to the changing consumer demand for fresh, fast, conscious food.

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