Supermarket rebels

United Kingdom (Brighton)

A revolutionary supermarket is proving that Brighton really does rock, by making it easier to be a good consumer. Rather than tinkering around the edges of responsible shopping, HISBE is going all-out to challenge the supermarket status quo and prove things can be different.

“You can change what’s wrong with the food system by supporting what’s right.”

In our consumerist society, our purchases have great power. The choices we make in our grocery shopping have an increasingly visible impact – on waste, on animal welfare, on energy consumption and on our carbon footprint. But navigating our way through responsible shopping isn’t always easy. It’s hard to understand the implications of each purchase we make. When selecting ‘green’ products, it’s difficult to identify genuinely sustainable products amid marketing hyperbole.

HISBE stands for ‘How It Should Be’, and the blue-fronted shops have a simple but powerful approach: every product on the shelves have been deliberately selected to satisfy a range of important criteria. How locally is this product sourced? How much waste is involved in its packaging? How well-treated are the animals involved in its production? Is this food produced in season? Are the people who produce this food treated with respect? And – importantly – is this good food?

HISBE’s founders are two sisters. Ruth and Amy Anslow are keen to stress that they haven’t set up a health food shop, or some kind of alternative boutique.  This is quite simply a supermarket (whose mantra is ‘Happiness before profits’), but as supermarkets should be done.

A visit to HISBE doesn’t feel much different to a trip to any other supermarket. There are rows of fruit and vegetables, cans of baked beans, chilled cabinets filled with meat and yoghurt, and a well-stocked aisle of booze and fizzy drinks. Things are a little different when it comes to dry goods like rice and pasta. Self-service dispensers allow you to measure the amount you need into paper – not plastic – bags, minimising waste and eliminating plastic.

The difference is subtle but important: the knowledge that every item you place in your basket has been produced, packaged and transported with responsible practices in mind.

And they apply these high standards to themselves too. As a community interest company (CIC) they have their clear social purpose set out in their governing documents, they’re a Living Wage employer and staff are liberated to make decisions without the constraints of complicated management structures. We really do agree, this is a supermarket just how it should be.

Buck that! ► Listen to your inner shelf: nude food and loose veggies

HISBE was mapped by Louise Ash in her AtlasChart: 10 rebels with a cause.

Written by

Louise Ash, Event DIrector, The Meaning People (25 September 2018)


Accidental ethical business geek Louise Ash is the organiser of Meaning conference – a way of sharing stories about what happens when business is brave enough to think differently.

Project leader

Ruth and Amy Anslow

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