Australia’s first fully plant-based supermarket, Greens, which opened in Newtown on July 31, could pave the way for future and existing stores to operate. This was the aim of co-founders, Sophia Stewart Kasimba and Peter Varvaressos, when opening the supermarket.
“As a business, we’ve chosen to be a blueprint for how retail stores can reduce their environmental impact,” says Stewart Kasimba. “We are heavily reliant on solar power, with batteries on-site. We have also given ourselves the target of being zero food waste by 2024.”
Though you might think this would translate to steep prices passed onto the consumer, in fact, it’s the opposite. Stewart Kasimba says those decisions were a key way for Greens to keep its prices low for customers, particularly important during the cost-of-living crisis.
Located on King Street in a section dubbed ‘Vegan Mile’, the 250 square-metre store is warm and inviting, with soaring ceilings, slick black floorboards, exposed brick and pops of greenery.
The colour of the shopping basket you grab at the entrance indicates whether you want assistance. Greens also has an in-store nutritionist you can consult, as well as a café called Canteen where you can lunch or snack.
Online shopping is also available, delivery will initially be within a 10km radius, followed by all of metropolitan Sydney in the coming months.
“The world is changing,” says Stewart Kasimba. “Sydneysiders are increasingly concerned about the environment, animal welfare and, of course, their health.”
She and Varvaresso already owned plant-based taqueria Vandal on King Street, which she says was popular immediately, and frequented by both vegans and non-vegans. Chatting with their customers about the concept for Greens confirmed there was an appetite for a store of this kind.
Greens, Varndal and neighbouring Kimusabi and Hide, set to open this September, will share fresh produce deliveries. This means every piece that would traditionally go in the bin, if not used or sold, can instead be given a new life.
“The beautiful fruit and vegetables that we source from local farmers deserve better than to end up in landfill,” says Varvaressos, who has nearly 30 years of hospitality experience.
In addition to sustainability, a major focus for Greens is to widen the plant-based product offering, by tapping into brands not yet available to the Australian market. When a gap is identified, Greens’ in-house team of chefs and custom-built manufacturing facility enable it to create entirely new product lines, exclusive to the store.
“There is incredible product innovation occurring in the plant-based space, much of which is being done by small-scale producers,” says Stewart Kasimba. “By truly showcasing all these incredible products, affordably, under one beautifully designed roof, it is our mission to make it accessible — and attractive — for people to eat more plants.”
Varvaressos says he sees Greens not just as a place for people to do their food shopping, but also for community to gather — vegans and non-vegans. Though, the number of the former is increasing, with Stewart Kasimba sharing that as of 2022, roughly 2% of Australians report being vegan, a further 2.5 million vegetarian and an additional 10 million actively trying to eat less animal products.
“Whether that’s on the outdoor seating with a fresh, daily-prepared meal from the Canteen, or inside, filling up their bottles with the complimentary still and sparkling water that’s on tap,” Varvaressos says. “Ultimately, we are really honoured to be extending our ethos to the growing number of consumers that are hungry to shop differently.”