Alternative Food Network


Last updated: April 2017



Growing an alternative ‘supermarket’ network 


The sustainable food movement is growing, with new roots and shoots sprouting in different directions all over the country.


Image: Farmers Market

Wholefood shops

For the simplest alternative to supermarkets, find your local independent wholefood shop – the Whole Food Action website has a directory.

There are some truly inspiring businesses out there. The likes of Unicorn Grocery in Manchester and Hisbe in Brighton will cater for a weekly food shop, with the added bonus that the experience is infinitely nicer than entering a normal supermarket. Planet Organic in London claims to be “the UK’s largest fully certified organic supermarket”.





Clubbing together with a few people to bulk buy from a wholesaler is a good solution for many. Here is a list of the larger wholesale suppliers:

Essential Trading – Bristol Delivers throughout most of the Southern half of England and Wales Glasgow (0141 554 7633) Minimum order £350 (delivery free). Delivers in and around Scotland.

Highland Wholefoods -  Inverness (01463 712393) Minimum order £100; £250 to benefit from discounts. Delivers to Highland

Infinity Foods - Brighton (01273 424060) Infinity sends goods to customers all over the UK and have a growing export market. You can visit their website at ( there is a page with a clickable map and postcode delivery rates for the UK) or e-mail enquiries to

Lembas   - Sheffield (0845 458 1585) Minimum order £100+  for non-trade depending on distance from base (delivery free). Lembas regularly deliveries within a radius of about 90 miles of Sheffield.

Rainbow Wholefoods – Norwich (01603 630484) Minimum order is £200 for delivery and £50 for collection. Delivers across East Anglia and beyond.

Suma co-operative - Halifax (01422 313861) The largest vegetarian foods and eco-products wholesaler in the country. Delivers to whole of the UK. Minimum order £250+ depending on region.


This list was taken from the Sustain website.




Veg boxes

The companies offering veg boxes, either for doorstep delivery or local collection, vary widely. Market leaders, such as Abel and Cole and Riverford Organics, provide fresh produce, whereas social enterprises, such as Growing Communities in London and Veg Box People in Manchester, also provide a social good, helping to make local food production not only viable but vibrant.

The Soil Association’s website has a “find an organic veg box” tool. Your local wholefood shop may also be able to point you in the right direction. For our recent article and video, see our sustainable food section. 




Farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets exist across the UK linking customers with local producers and providing thousands of farmers with a real lifeline. For a directory of markets, shops and farms where you can pick your own, see A directory of country markets is also available.




Food Assemblies

Food Assemblies provide an online market for food producers to sell to local people. Hosts organise a weekly online shop and a local pick-up market. There is no middleman: Members pay producers directly. The Food Assembly website claims this allows them to earn over 80% for their produce in comparison to 15-25% through supermarkets. The Food Assembly and the Hosts charge a service fee. There are a few Food Assemblies across the UK supported by the London Assembly. 




Open Food Network and Food Hubs

OFN UK was launched in 2016 and is a co-operative of producers and food enterprises which is growing quickly. Producers grow, make, bake, rear, butcher and ferment while Food Hubs sell the produce of a range of producers. Producers and Hubs can set up profiles on the Network, which can be upgraded to online shops selling directly to customers. 


According to OFN international’s website:

“Food systems we love need collaboration, trust and logistics. They need software that empowers us. We’re non-profit, and we’re open source. We’re ready to partner the food movement in your part of the world.” 


Community Supported Agriculture

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is “a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared … It is one of the most radical ways that we can re-take control and ownership of our food system.” 

There are different ways that consumers, or CSA members, can be involved in the production of their food, which may be through ownership or investment in a farm or through providing labour. Find a CSA near you. 




Other resources

BigBarn is a local food website which helps people to find good, safe, accountable food from local sources.

VegBox Recipes is for those who enjoy cooking with fresh veggies, but sometimes want inspiration! 






Kindling Trust

Image: Kindling Trust

Campaign for a Sustainable Food System

Leonie Nimmo talks to Helen Woodcock from the Kindling Trust, a project aiming to give local, organic produce to everyone. 

Read More



A People's Food Policy

Image: Food Policy

Developing a fair food system for all people

Dee Butterly, member of the co-ordinating group of A People’s Food Policy, explains how a counter-narrative to a business-focussed food system is being built from the bottom up in the UK.

Read More


Product Guide

Which supermarket is the most ethical?

Ethical and environmental ratings for 13 supermarkets, with best buy recommendations.

Read More



Ethical made easy

Detailed ethical ratings for over 40,000 companies, brands and products, plus Ethical Consumer magazine.

30 day trial subscription - find out more