The first thing I look at upon picking up a new product is the nutrition label – job hazard!
However on top of that, I also think about its manufacturing process. How were the raw materials grown? Who was involved in the process? How they were treated?
Another thing that stands out to me is the packaging. What material(s) is it made of? Is it reusable? Is any part of it harmful to the environment?
I know, it is a long list of questions (and I’m sure I’ve not even covered them all)!
In a place like Singapore where we don’t have much agricultural land and we don’t come in contact with farmers, it doesn’t come naturally to think much about the food we eat in terms of where it came from and how it came to be. With growing conversation around the climate crisis and ethical issues surrounding the agricultural industry, more people are caring about these issues and are asking brands and companies they support to provide more transparency around these topics.
It is also heartening to see that more brands are stepping up and offering products that help consumers make a positive impact through their purchases. One such brand is Re-, a food start-up that sits within the greater Olam Group, a food and agri-business company that has a rich history of driving sustainable agricultural practices.
I’ve been trying out Re-’s products over the past month and here are a few things that stood out to me.
To combat plastic pollution, Re- keeps their product packaging 91% plastic-free (and they are working on hitting 100%).
For example, the only plastic used in this tin of cookies is in the adhesive which affixes the label to the tin. The cookies were delicious by the way. The flavour was a little earthier than your usual cookie, and it had good bite too it! I like how it wasn’t too sweet too. As for the tin, I have since washed it and it is now used to store some cake I baked last week.
Other products such as their muesli and nut butters come in jars which can be used many times over. P.S. never throw out glass jars, not even in the recycling bin! It takes a lot of resources for them to be recycled, so it’s always better to rinse them out and repurpose them. When I end up collecting too many of them to keep at home, I give them away – there is always someone in need of them!
And this small cans of nuts are without the plastic cap that usually comes with these products (on top of the seal).
These are small actions, but they certainly do add up!
Re- commits to offering only natural and minimally processed products that are not only tasty, but also good for you, good for the farming communities, and good for the planet.
I was surprised to see that their cashews are packed exactly the way I used to have them in Vietnam. That is, still in their ‘jacket’ skins! I somehow enjoy peeling them off, and even find it therapeutic. It made sense when I later found out that their cashews are grown and packed in Vietnam, specifically in the la Grai district.
Previously, the area had no street lighting, making it rather unsafe especially for women, young children and motorcyclists after sunset. Knowing this, Re- worked with the local community and installed 100 streetlights along 3km. The area has since seen a reduction in motorcycle accidents, and the women and kids in the community feel safer going outside at night.
Cashews are mostly a small farmer crop and these farmers are often exploited by buyers that do not pay fair market rates, or pay them on time (forcing them to take loans). Another great thing Re- have done was to establish buying co-operatives which help farmers ensure they’re paid on time, can rely on the certainty of a fixed price, benefit from economies of scale, and ultimately break free from the cycle of debt.
There is so much more to share about each of their products, and I like how consumers can find bite-sized information about it on the food packaging.
I made some Date & Cashew Energy Balls using Re-’s Smooth Cashew Butter and these are now my favourite snack for my afternoon pick-me-up! You only need 6 simple ingredients and they’re so easy to make! Try them out and let me know what you think!