Since we started our vegan journey at the beginning of the year, I’ve learnt to embrace the notion of ordering our groceries and other vegan products online and having them delivered whereas I would have usually trawled around the shops instead. Don’t get me wrong, we still use the usual main supermarkets but none of them are particularly excelling when it comes to getting everything you need under a single roof, and so I find it much easier to add to my shopping basket as I go and place an order at the weekend ready for the coming week.
One of the online stores I’ve most enjoyed using is Abel & Cole who deliver organic fruit and vegetable boxes and/or recipe boxes to your door alongside a whole host of other ethical and eco-friendly products. Sounds like it’s right up my street doesn’t it?
A couple of weeks ago, on a rainy and windy Friday morning, I popped my head outside of our front door to see a delightful stack of boxes waiting for me. They were covered in a thin plastic raincover and I excitedly lugged them inside to unpack on the kitchen worktops.
Abel & Cole had very kindly gifted us their One Pot Wonder Recipe Box (£14.50), Easy Smoothie Bundle (£8.50), Booster Bundle (£5.85), 1kg of organic blood oranges (£3.20), 250g of organic bergamot lemons (£2.00), Plant Power Protein Box (£8.00), 2 x Onist Food Healthy Avocado Organic Choc Pots (£3.79 each) and 2 x Juiceman Drinks (£4.95 each).
Everything arrived cold, fresh and ready to go and I was really pleased to see the Plant Power Protein Box included as it’s a constant struggle, especially in these early stages of veganism, to make sure you’re getting enough protein every day. The pack included Organic Original Tofu, Sojade Seitan Steak, Sojade Soya Mince and Mr. Organic Chickpeas.
We have tried quite a few soya mince alternatives across the years (I’ve been a long-term vegetarian before) and without question, the Sojade version is hands down the nicest we’ve ever had. We’ve had a taco seasoning and salsa kit hanging around the back of the cupboard that I’ve hung on to as it happens to be vegan and I dished it all up for lunch one day. It was amazing, I could’ve eaten it ALL day long. Yum!
I was excited to try the avocado choc pots but I wasn’t overly impressed when I first dug in. However, I found the deeper into the pot I got, the more I was enjoying it and by the end, I was absolutely gutted that it was finished. Michael had the other one the next day and he said exactly the same thing so we’ll be buying these again although not too often as they’re a little pricey in my opinion! They were delicious and the ingredients are actually incredibly healthy. It’s just water, dates, cocoa powder, avocado, cashew nuts, lime juice and sea salt but it tastes like heaven.
I think the One Pot Wonder Box is a great idea as it’s vegan-friendly and who doesn’t love one-pot recipes (and saving on washing up!) but I would’ve liked to have seen a vegan option included as a choice with the usual recipe boxes. With the One Pot Wonder Box, there is only one option available each week so you can only use the box for one of your meals whereas the other recipe boxes provide for up to 3 alternative recipes per week which could cover most of your midweek meals. If they did introduce a vegan recipe box in line with the others, I would certainly be tempted to order on a weekly basis.
— The cardboard boxes and the additional packing inside each box is completely recyclable as, on your next order, your driver will pick them up again and they will be reused. I was pleased to see the edges of delivery stickers underneath our own on every box so you can see that they are really putting this policy into action. The boxes are also recyclable and compostable in their own right.
— You don’t have to be in when your delivery arrives and can arrange for the driver to place your boxes somewhere safe and pre-agreed.
— You can buy a box as a ‘one-off’ if you like rather than opting for a subscription-style service.
— You can skip boxes whilst you’re away or on holiday and you’re not tied into a contract so can cancel your subscription at any time if needed.
— You can make substitutions as required.
— They use Woolcool insulation to keep your groceries cool during transit and delivery where wool is a no-go for most vegans. If you’d like to know why here’s a few articles that may help you:
I asked Abel & Cole to provide some more information about the Woolcool insulation and whether they offered an alternative form of packing upon request. This is the response I received from them —
“We are aware that a good deal of our vegan-friendly products, namely our chilled items, come in unsuitable packaging, and as we look to expand the range and appeal to this growing market it has become a priority to develop an alternative. However finding a material that lives up to the task, ticks all of our boxes and isn’t plastic has so far been easier said than done (but we are making progress!).
Of all the potential materials we’ve looked into so far, the one we’re most taken with is hemp fibre – great thermal insulation, easy to grow organically, carbon-neutral and tough. But…
– Chilled products naturally cause condensation, which plant-based materials tend to absorb. This decreases the lifespan of the packaging, but worse still being a carbohydrate the wet fibres encourage bacterial and fungal growth. Risk of mould and contamination aside, we found the smell this caused alone was enough to send us back to the drawing board. Wool fibres on the other hand are not only water-resistant, but also have anti-bacterial properties, which has for so long made this the superior choice. However the growing profile of hemp as an great insulator, coupled with a general emphasis to move away from animal products, means this might not be the case for much longer, and we’re confident we’ll overcome these challenges soon.
– The other issue that impedes us offering plant-based packaging on request is the fact our production processes are so manual. All of our boxes have always been hand-packed, and we’ve found this makes accurately communicating a personalisation to one customer’s box a risky business. However we faced a similar challenge with our fruit and veg box and made a success of it, so we know it can be done.
Enough of what we’d like to do though- here are some changes that we’ve been able to implement already:
-Our Rebel Kitchen Mylks, which were being packed as a chilled item, have now been re-classed as pantry (following our suppliers example) to remove the need for WoolCool – a product whose target market is mostly vegan can now safely be bought by…vegans.
-Our One Pot Wonder Recipe Box has over time turned into a permanently vegan box thanks to budgeting limitations (meat and dairy were priced out basically), and are now packed without WoolCool
-Same goes for our Superb Souping Box. On this note – a serious upshot to really scrutinising what we need to use is we’ve been able to reduce our net use considerably.
With a growing representation of veganism in the business there are more eyes and voices to help with these decisions – I hope I’ve been able to outline here some indication of this. We’re proud of being trailblazers, and when WoolCool was first developed we thought it suited our environmental ethos down to the ground – innovative, recyclable and sustainable. Hopefully soon we’ll be pioneering something better.
Although I can’t provide the perfect solution (yet), I hope I’ve been able to answer your query satisfactorily, but of course if you have any queries about any of the above, or any further concerns I can help with please don’t hesitate to contact me.“
I was actually really impressed with their detailed, considered response and I’m hopeful that they’ll continue to develop their packaging options and product ranges to suit the needs of the growing vegan community and their loyal customers.
Have you ever shopped with Abel & Cole before? What do you think of their vegan and plant-based ranges?