Inside Spinneys' sustainable store in Dubai: bees on the roof and sparkling water refills

Plus, customers who bring their own containers will enjoy a discount at the deli counter

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One of the UAE’s best-known supermarkets, Spinneys, has opened a new type of store in Dubai.

Located in the Layan community, the store offers customers a sustainable approach to grocery shopping. At 27,000 square feet, the space is part of the company’s “Let’s Do Better Together” strategy.

It includes shelves stocked with a wide range of vegan, vegetarian, organic, high-protein and free-range produce (some with reduced fats and sugar), and it will allow customers to engage in reducing waste through a “Refill Shop” where you can reuse your own containers brought from home.

Spinneys will source from UAE farms to champion local farmers. Photo: Spinneys

Those who bring their own containers to the deli counter will also receive a discount.

Elsewhere, dispensers will allow customers to refill bottles and containers with produce such as coffee, spices, honey, pasta and pulses, as well as cleaning liquids by eco-friendly brand Ecover.

Sophie Corcut, sustainability manager at Spinneys, explains the thinking behind these changes. “The initiatives are based on three core pillars: healthier eating, less waste and sustainable production practices. By bringing these areas to life prominently in the store through product displays and fixtures, messaging as well as store-use materials such as containers and bags, we hope to nudge our customers towards choosing more sustainable shopping practices.”

As a way of helping the pollination of local fauna and floral, the new supermarket even houses its own family of honeybees in hives on the roof. It is a bid to support the environment and also educate customers about the need for biodiversity and protecting fragile eco systems.

Also on the roof and around the car park are 650 solar panels, which will supply some of the building's energy needs, while behind the scenes, the refrigeration systems used in-store are redesigned to emit fewer fluorocarbons.

Sunil Kumar Sekharan, chief executive of Spinneys, says: “We are making sustainable choices for the future. We know we have a lot of work to do to become a truly sustainable organisation ... but we will continue to drive such forward thinking in the region.”

Part of this plan is also having water refill stations dotted about the store, to allow customers to fill bottles with room temperature water free of charge, with chilled, sparkling or that which comes infused with botanicals, such as peppermint or lemon balm, costing between Dh5 to Dh10 per fill.

Spinneys customers can now recycle items, such as coffee capsules, in-store. Photo: Spinneys

To support farmers, the majority of fruit and vegetables come from local farms and suppliers, while Spinneys will also expand its “Naturally I’m Perfect” range of edible but non-uniformly shaped vegetables, which would otherwise be dumped.

In another locally minded initiative, the supermarket will stock products from its Incubator Programme, which introduces smaller, local companies to the market; look out for names such as The Skin Concept, Namastea, The Botanist and Kimri.

“We have a responsibility to contribute to creating a more sustainable way of living for our community. We hope this new store concept, which we plan to roll out across the UAE, will help play a part in supporting the government’s sustainability goals,” says Corcut.

As well as refill stations, the store will also start to reduce plastic waste by sourcing products with recyclable packaging and content where possible, while a firm “no plastic bags” policy at the checkout will encourage customers to bring their own carry bags, or pay 50 fils for a paper bag.

Corcut says: “We will continue to monitor and track the progress of all of the new initiatives in the first quarter of 2022, and hope to have those that work best for our customers rolled out to more stores in the second half of 2022.”

Updated: December 20, 2021, 6:12 PM