Nude food and Little Garden: New World’s continued push towards plastic-free produce

A fruit and veggie frenzy has once again swept the country, thanks to a series of colourful little pots of seedlings you've probably seen pop up in New World stores or lined up on your neighbour's windowsill. 

The New World Little Garden seedling promotion returned this year for the first time in three years, delighting gardening enthusiasts both young and old - and leading to much competition over flourishing tomatoes and radishes on social media. 

But for New World, the Little Garden promotion goes further than just being a particularly savvy way of getting your children to eat their vegetables. 

It's part of an ongoing ethos of generating excitement around fresh produce, and knowledge around affordability and sustainability when it comes to food. 

One of the New World initiatives already making waves is 'Food in the Nude': An action-led drive to remove unnecessary plastic packaging on fresh produce to create a more sustainable offering of 'nude' fruit and vegetables. 

After all - nature provided bananas and oranges with their own coverings, so do we need more? 

First debuted in 2016, 36 out of 42 stores in the South Island now are 'nude', and according to New World, it's driven a positive impact on sales, with some soaring by up to 300 percent in certain stores - spring onions, silverbeet and celery in particular.

New World says that over one year, 'Food in the Nude' had stopped 3.4 tonnes of plastic from being produced in the first place - the now naked spring onions saved around 1400kgs or 1.4 tonnes alone.

Glen Stevenson, retail support manager - operations for Foodstuffs South Island, tells Newshub "it’s been a team effort with stores, growers and customers all willing to do things differently. The growers have switched out sleeves for tags and our produce managers have enthusiastically embraced the vision."

It’s that paddock to plate and sustainable ethos shoppers can bring into their own homes with their flourishing Little Gardens. The Little Garden seedling kits and accessories are 100 percent plastic-free, with compostable pottles and a recyclable tray made of sugarcane pulp - even the tag on the tin watering can has a hemp string.

Little Garden is back by popular demand with 24 different vegetable, herb and flower seedlings to collect and get growing this spring.
Little Garden is back by popular demand with 24 different vegetable, herb and flower seedlings to collect and get growing this spring. Photo credit: Supplied

Customers are reportedly embracing the 'nude' movement. 

"We’ve had overwhelmingly positive comments from our customers - they really love the transformation and how that then helps them to do their bit reducing plastic too," says Stevenson.

"And the produce looks better! You can smell the freshness when you go into the department."

This sentiment is echoed from the floor itself, by New World St Martins produce manager Kerry Carr, who says the 'Food In The Nude' initiative has been getting "lots of response". 

"It's been going really well," he says. "The feedback from customers is they're all really happy and excited to see less plastic on shelves." 

The main highlight is the 'misting' of the produce on vertical walls to keep food fresh without the use of plastic, which Carr says has been instrumental - plus adds a little 'wow' factor. 

But interestingly it's not a new idea. In fact, Stevenson reveals it's actually inspired by pre-plastic practices. 

"Years ago, way back, produce managers misted vegetables by hand. It’s something we moved away from because plastic packaging came in, but it turns out it was a smart solution for the long term!"

As more stores move to embrace the 'Food in the Nude' movement customers can support it by bringing their own reusable bags to stores, and maybe taking the opportunity to work their green fingers and grow a little of their own produce at home. 

To learn more about New World’s sustainability efforts and Little Garden, visit the New World website

This article was created for Foodstuffs