In the 20th century, it is quite common to see grocery stories booming in streets in Taiwan selling a wide array of goods and groceries. This kind of grocery stores play an important role in Taiwanese daily life. For most of people, grocery stores usually makes the impression that forms of slogans and coupons are attached on the walls of stores, elder people stroll around nearby and grain sacks are often used to load the food. [annotation 1] However, when time comes nears 21st century, the advent of hypermarkets changes the customer behavior: people not only no longer spend the money in accordance with their need but also forget the habit of bringing personal containers to shop. The classic grocery store shopping type fades away in the past to the extent that stores could only retreat to the areas, such as traditional market or allies, for survival. Customers are enjoying purchasing whole-packaged and cheap stuff at convenience.
“From our farms to our supermarkets, tonnes of perfectly edible food ends up in landfill, while statistics suggest that the average family in the UK throws away £680 worth of food a year – that’s £12 billion nationwide.”–
-British chef Jamie Oliver
Nevertheless, the blind pursuit of convenience would only result in unnecessary waste. If people could not consume the food in time, tossing it away is the only action in question. British chef Jamie Oliver once pinpointed the fact that the Western world wastes three times the amount of food needed to feed the planet’s hungriest people, much more waste the energy used to produce the food. Therefore, perceiving the rise of waste problem, a certain number of associations from the Western world have been advocating the reuse of food movement since then. As for Taiwan, on the other hand, two youngsters who invested a huge amount of passion into cooking, Kate and Bally, pioneered to bring up the notion of cherishing the food into people’s daily life, and thereby a non-packaged grocery store, Naked Market, was open in Minsheng Community in 2015. [annotation 2]
These two founders of Naked Market aimed high in hope to remodel it into a new type of grocery store with innovation. All the ingredients were sold by weight and put in different transparent jars. Customers would be given a discount if they willingly brought vessels from home to purchase in store. By encouraging such act, people get to realize the essence of “minor shopping.”
The primary delight, besides, of Naked Market lies in its huge indoor kitchen island. In the vision of founders, the reason they combine the cooking classroom with private kitchen as indoor design is because they wish to create a different sense for shoppers that renders them able to learn new cooking skills while knowing how to pick up the ingredients at the same time. Naked Market also shared culinary recipes and tips on Facebook fanpage from time to time, marketing the positive attitude in support of right ingredient, right concept and right hobby to make more and more customers grow fondness in non-packaged shopping.
Sadly, after two-year endeavor to materialize the vision, Naked Market had to declare the difficulty of operation, soon followed by the close-down in April this year. The difficulty of its operation could be attributed into three aspects:
Aspect of concept: the scarcity of non-packaged stores
According to a questionnaire conducted between 2015-2016, only 26.55% population in Taiwan has heard of non-packaged stores, of which 30% have been there to shop. However, about 70% are willing to buy food with personal containers from home. The result indicates the fact that it is the scarcity of non-packaged stores that people fail to become familiar with non-packaging. After all, to cultivate such new mode of consumption habit, it could only be learned through offline stores instead of online shopping.
Aspect of environment: the doubt towards food freshness
Despite various kinds of items, ranging from seasonings, dairy products to vinegar, the biggest issue that ever happened, as Kate and Bally found, was the doubt from customers towards the freshness of ingredients for the food is unpackaged. In fact, the jars were specifically designed to perfectly separate the inner storage layer from the outside presentation layer as well as possess air-tight and pollution-proof function. The store would weekly check the food to make sure all the ingredients are at their freshest condition before provided to customers.
Aspect of investment: the insufficient marketing channels
Naked Market was hard to strike balance between expansion and marketing due to the constraint of human resources, finance and customer base. [annotation 3] Without the stable influx of profit and investment, the operation was impacted in terms of awareness and scale. Closing the store temporarily became the final resort for Naked Market in order to reconsider its next step.
Conclusively, although the movement of non-packaging only lasts for a brief period of time, more people from all walks of life get to understand its importance by degrees because of Naked Market. This year in July, Executive Yuan passed the policy to expand the extent of anti-plastic campaign, banning more stores and industries from using and providing free plastic bags to customers. It is estimated that 1.5 billion plastic bags will be reduced annually. Likewise, Lehua Night Market spontaneously launches a campaign in collaboration with Department of Environmental Protection to make Lehua as the first domestic “anti-plastic night market.” [annotation 4] As long as people bring their own eco-friendly containers to Lehua, they will be offered discount and lottery whose biggest prize is “VIP gold card with 10% off for one year” in Lehua Night Market.
Naked Market’s vision might not be the rage for just a short time, it, on the contrary, lays down the foundation and precedent for us to follow. As a customer, preparing our own eco-friendly containers might seem teeny, but it could be the best cause we could support for the surroundings.
[annotation 1] The type of grocery store began in South China and Taiwan in 20th century, particularly selling snack, dry goods, drinks and stationery. In the past, the soy sauce was sold un-packaged and customers needed to prepare containers to “load the sauce.”
[annotation 2] Customers are allowed to freely load the food they need and not regulated by minimum consumption amount. This fact helps to reduce the redundant waste.
[annotation 3] In light of marketing, Naked Market only operates Facebook fanpage to announce any news or events: https://www.facebook.com/nkdmarket.
[annotation 4] The campaign will last for one month from 22nd of July to 22nd of August. Meanwhile, the night market layouts an area for people to wash their eco-friendly containers and handkerchiefs so that they could be reused all the time while strolling through the market.
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