Hot seat: Janni Holzhausen

As <em>Time Out</em> investigates super foods Janni Holzhausen, chief executive of Spinneys, answers our questions.

Hot seat, The Knowledge

How have rising food prices affected you?
The biggest problem with the rise in food prices is the increase in basic commodity prices that affect the lower income brackets more. It seems that the price of commodities has stabilised.

Has it affected the produce people buy? For example, are they buying more local products?
The term ‘local products’ is somewhat misleading. People refer to products bought from the fruit and vegetable market as ‘local products’, but more than often it originates from other Middle East countries. Customers tend to buy high volume, low value products on price and premium products on quality.

You stock a lot of products from overseas. Why is that?
The UAE cannot produce a fraction of the products we sell and most of the food consumed in the UAE is imported.

Are you concerned by the distance your food has to travel to reach us here?
Living and conducting a business in the environment we live has its unique challenges. Our first responsibility is to have sufficient food available at all times. We ensure that we transport the food under the strictest food safety standards, as economically as we can, and that we reduce both cost and our carbon footprint as much as possible.

Is there anything you are doing to reduce the distances food travels, or is it just a fact of life we have to live with?
Dubai is situated in an extreme climate region. Food therefore must be imported. We source from the most reliable and economical locations and transport as economically as is safe and practical.

Could you market the local veg more strongly?
We work closely with local growers. To grow vegetables in our climate is indeed challenging. With the best technology and farming disciplines, it is still not feasible to grow vegetables all year round.

How many of your customers are purchasing the reusable bags? Are there any other plans to reduce plastic bag usage?
We have introduced various options for our customers to reduce waste and are changing as many of our packing options to degradable products as is economically viable. We appeal to and accept our customers are responsible citizens and that they will reduce waste along with us. Spinneys has installed as many recycling centres as possible to assist them. As most of the products in the UAE are imported, packing and the resultant waste generated by that is quite high. We separate all shop-generated waste, recycle wherever recycling facilities are available and constantly evaluate packing and transportation to reduce waste. We sell a lot of our reusable bags as well as the reusable shopping trolley/bags.

Is there any chance of regional organic produce? How easy is it for regional farms to qualify for organic status?
Organic farming is not easy and in our desert environment even more difficult. Our advice to customers is always that the best and healthiest way to eat is to buy fresh ingredients and cook your meals yourself. That way you are in charge of the amount of fat or oil used, the products are not exposed to preservatives and you control the portions you consume.

I believe that the better approach is to aim for so called ‘clean farming’. This uses the best possible farming practices in as far as fertiliser usage are concerned, minimises fertiliser run-offs and uses water wisely. Even with the best methods, farming in the UAE remains challenging. We support it where we can and will continue to do so in the future.

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