"Unicorn Grocery is a great example of how the principles of affordable, fresh and wholesome food can be combined with competitive pricing and sustainable production with a social conscience."
Jutexpo Managing Director Barrie Turner
Since opening in September 1996 Manchester-based Unicorn Grocery has offered a range of affordable, fresh and wholesome food with a focus on organic, fair-trade and local sourcing.
For the last 13 years it has been helping to change the culture of bag use by offering customers the use of environmentally-friendly reusable jute bags supplied by Jutexpo. The move has delivered results before and beyond the introduction of the plastic bag tax in England in October 2015.
Each one of the 250,000 specially-designed carriers they have sold for £2.85 each has a four-year lifespan and can reduce the need for 624 disposable plastic bags, creating a potential saving of up to 156million plastic bags over the years.
Worcestershire-based Jutexpo is the world’s biggest supplier of reusable jute bags and has more than 80 per cent of the UK market.
Jutexpo joined Unicorn Grocery to celebrate its 21st birthday with a special presentation at the grocery, on Albany Road, Chorlton.
Jutexpo Managing Director Barrie Turner handed Unicorn Grocery a framed print featuring many of the slogans which have been featured on the jute bags. Jutexpo has also designed a fun new organic cotton bag for Unicorn to mark its birthday.
Unicorn Grocery has become one of the largest and most successful wholefood outlets in the UK. It was named the Soil Association's Best Independent Retailer in 2016, adding to previous award wins from The Observer Food Monthly and BBC Radio Four. Unicorn is currently waiting to hear whether it has won Best Food Retailer in Radio 4’s Food & Farming Awards, announced later in September.
As a workers’ co-operative the shop is owned and managed by the people who work in it, and they have created a place they want to shop in themselves.
Unicorn’s focus is on basic ingredients for tasty, interesting and really affordable cooking.
Director/Grocer Kellie Bubble said: “When we decided we wanted to introduce a bag for customers to reuse we had so many samples - different sizes and materials - but there was only one that stood out for our purposes and that was Jutexpo.
“We wanted to change the culture of bag use and we needed a bag substantial enough to get a whole load of groceries in, a bag that could deal with the weight of lots of tins and the space to fit in huge cauliflowers and the like.
“Once we found our bag all our members trialled it before we committed, it had to be fit for purpose and built to last.
“Over the last 13 years we have been approached so many times to switch to other suppliers but Jutexpo ticks every box.
“Unexpectedly the bags also ended up being a really useful way to promote Unicorn and issues that are important to us such as seasonality.
“When we first introduced the jute bags they had our logo on but pretty soon we got a little fed up of seeing our name everywhere so we decided to be a little more creative.“
Jutexpo Managing Director Barrie Turner said: “Unicorn Grocery is a great example of how the principles of affordable, fresh and wholesome food can be combined with competitive pricing and sustainable production with a social conscience.
“We are delighted to be a part of their success story.”
Unicorn has grown from a turnover of £250,000 to £7.5 million and from four members to 70. It donates a steady 5% (around £80,000) of wage costs to local and international projects relating to its Principles of Purpose.
Jutexpo supplies a wide range of clients, including supermarkets, charities and the public sector.
Its jute bag production rose from 5.5million bags per year before the English plastic bag tax was introduced in 2015 to help reduce litter and protect wildlife, to 8.5million in the year of the bag tax and 7million a year since.