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Why I Switched from Abel & Cole to Pikt

2020 has really upped the vegetable box delivery game in London.

For those of us who are food conscious and environmentally conscious, we usually aren’t just looking for what’s convenient – we also want to minimise our environmental impact.

There are a few strong considerations I take into account when it comes to choosing the right vegetable delivery box for me.

So, what is it about Pikt that has made me make the switch from Abel & Cole?

Why Am I Writing This?

Before I unwrap my Pikt experience for you, you might be questioning why I’ve been motivated to write this article.

About me: I’m a vegetarian (doing my best to be vegan most of the time) digital marketer (you can check me out at Rainbow Dragon Digital) who lives alone. I thoroughly enjoy cooking for myself, but I never follow recipes.

I met the owner of Pikt, Matt Godfroy, on LinkedIn as he wanted to have a consultation about the marketing direction of Pikt and its parent company, SunFresh Produce.

We had a very fruitful hour discussing my ideas and opinions on Pikt’s strategy. As a thank you for the session, Matt offered me a code to get a £30 box of vegetables and asked me if I would be happy to write a blog post about it (since writing is what I most adore about my work). He even offered to pay me for the writing on top of receiving the free box!

While I’m super grateful for the extra veg and the bit of enjoyable paid work, I am also very conscious about maintaining my integrity.

I want to therefore be clear that while this piece of writing has essentially been sponsored, I am giving my completely honest review of my experience and opinions of Pikt.

My Veg Box Rating System

I’ve been using veg boxes on and off for a few years and have stopped and started for various reasons. Here’s the criteria on which I personally use to determine if a veg box is right for me:

  1. Quality – I usually want organic produce (I’ll explain why) and I also specifically want produce that isn’t going to go bad in a few days’ time – I’m feeding only me after all!
  2. Delivery – While I’m home all the time these days, so delivery day isn’t a huge deal for me, there isn’t a safe place for the delivery person to leave my box in the block I live in. That means it can’t be delivered at a time when I’m not home or not awake!
  3. Packaging – I’m aiming for as close to a zero-waste lifestyle as I can get, so I want a veg box that doesn’t come with all the plastic waste the vegetables and fruit so often seem to come with.
  4. Variety – Some people hate the fact that veg boxes deliver things they’re not really sure they want. I love being surprised and being introduced to new vegetables I’ve never experienced before. I want a service with a variety of interesting stuff because I’m easily bored with the same food every day.
  5. Ethics – Ideally, I want to only buy from businesses I know are doing the right thing or, at the very least, making a concerted effort to do the right thing.

That’s the lens through which I’m judging Pikt. Let’s see how it did on each count in comparison to my experiences with other boxes I’ve ordered in the past. If you don’t care for the long story, feel free to skip to the end where I summarise why I made the switch to Pikt.

For reference, the veg boxes I’ve used in the past include Abel & Cole (which I used years ago as well as who I’ve been using for the last few weeks), Oddbox, and Pale Green Dot.

Quality

Rating: 5/5

My opinion on eating organic is that it usually doesn’t matter too much except for the “Dirty Dozen” (the 12 vegetables that are most likely to retain pesticides). Since those 12 are probably in most boxes, I do feel like I have to insist on organic produce from my veg delivery boxes.

Thankfully Pikt’s boxes, like Abel & Cole and Riverford, are all organic and pesticide-free so no worries there. While I loved the price and locally sourced nature of Pale Green Dot, the fact that it’s not organic was the main reason I stopped using them.

I’m not one to be too fussy about bumps and scrapes on my veggies and fruits. Just slice out the bad bits and carry on is how I usually operate. With Pikt, though, every item was so carefully wrapped that everything was in pristine condition (perhaps wrapped a little too much – I’ll explain when I get to Packaging!)

In terms of freshness & lasting quality, I’m writing this about a week after my delivery and I still had the kale and spinach leaves in a salad today. Even though they were not sealed away in plastic, they’ve survived pretty well in the fridge!

Everything else that was in the box has definitely survived the week (and made for some delicious meals!).

Delivery

Rating: 5/5

I love Oddbox’s whole concept of giving ugly fruits and vegetables a happy home. But the major problems I had with them is that 1) they’re not organic and 2) they delivered at around 4am and there isn’t a safe place to leave boxes at my apartment block (I had mine stolen a few times so had to stop using them).

I’m not a morning person, so I have very begrudgingly been accepting Abel & Cole’s 7am deliveries, only because they claim this is more environmentally friendly (driving around more quickly in the early hours). I have also been begrudgingly accepting that they get to dictate the day of my delivery as well, meaning I have to have it every Friday or miss an entire week.

Pikt does it totally differently.

Instead of using their own delivery people they deliver through DPD. Which means we get to choose our own day of delivery and they arrive at a reasonable hour. DPD even let me know that morning at what hour I could expect the box to arrive at my door – I feel spoiled.

The flexibility of choosing the delivery day is really beneficial to me. Sometimes I’m feeling lazy on the weekend and don’t feel like cooking – so delaying my delivery to Monday means I will have fresher produce during the week. Or if I know my boyfriend is visiting that weekend, I can bump up the order a day so that I have time to plan a nice meal.

But what about the minimising impact of the delivery that other boxes do by dictating delivery day and time? Pikt’s answer to this is optional carbon offsetting, which I definitely take up. To me this feels a little more like circular design than simply minimising impact, but I do realise there is some controversy about whether carbon offsetting is truly effective in minimising overall impact.

Packaging

Rating: 4/5

Here Pikt does something that I haven’t found any other veg box to do – it’s completely plastic free.

When I tried Lola’s I was so horrified by the amount of plastic in the box that I never ordered from them again. Abel & Cole, Oddbox and Pale Green Dot all did a pretty good job of minimising plastic. Abel & Cole have some interesting biodegradable forms of plastic but again there’s a whole controversy there about how long they actually take to break down. All of them tend to still have some slivers of single-use plastic they deem ‘necessary’ to maintain freshness – particularly for salad leaves and cucumbers.

Pikt completely bucks this trend – the salad, fruit, tomatoes everything came in little carboard boxes or wrapped in brown paper. All easily recyclable.

Despite being a uniquely plastic-free veg box, I still had two small gripes that brought Pikt’s rating down a point.

First, there is just way too much packaging. Even if it’s all recyclable, it’s still a lot of unnecessary waste and I am trying to aim for a zero-waste lifestyle – which doesn’t only mean no plastic, but also minimum wasted material in general.

I totally understand that this is the price to be paid for ensuring safe delivery of pristine produce and consumers can be so intolerant of bumps and bruises. Since that’s less of a concern for myself, I would have liked to have had a “minimum packaging” option so that only the most fragile of vegetables and fruit were actually wrapped up, and I then accept any damage that might be caused in transit. I’m hoping this is something Pikt might be able to add to the product in the future.

My second gripe is that the boxes don’t get reused. They deliver in such great, sturdy boxes that it feels wrong to just put it in recycling. Most other veg box delivery services pick up the boxes on the next delivery – but that’s because they’re doing their own logistics (and delivering at ungodly hours). I know that All Plants (which deliver frozen meals rather than vegetables) used to give you a return label to send them back the packaging to be reused – but I admit I don’t know how that balances out in terms of environmental impact.

I think it would bump Pikt right up to a 5 if the packaging could be minimised, and if they found a good solution for reusing the boxes.

Variety

Rating: 4/5

I’m a bit weirder than the average person when it comes to veg boxes – I really enjoy not knowing what I’m about to get each week.

I can get that same level of surprise with Pikt’s premade boxes. However, I want both vegetables and fruit, and that only comes in the £30 box size, which is just a touch too big and too expensive for me alone on a weekly basis. I’d prefer a box that was more like £17-£20 in size, which they have but not mixed fruit and vegetables.

Of course, I can totally build my own box each week – which is fine, but it doesn’t quite give me that element of surprise anymore. This is perfect, though, if you want to be able to plan ahead a bit with what you’re going to cook (and to ensure you get basics in your box like onions!)

The bigger reason that Pikt’s rating gets dragged down in this realm is the range of products on offer. They’ve got a lot of very cool vegetables I’ve not seen in other boxes (rainbow carrots in my last box made my stir fry lots of fun!) but it doesn’t quite compare to the much wider range of groceries available on Abel & Cole – which you could add to your premade vegetable box order whenever you needed, making it a little more convenient than Pikt.

That said, I didn’t make a huge amount of use of that with Abel & Cole (since they’re actually quite expensive!), so it’s not a major sticking point for me.

Ethics

Rating: 5/5

To be fair, Pikt has a little advantage here when it comes to my personal review since I’ve had a chat with the owner directly.

Pikt doesn’t earn a perfect score here just because it is B-Corp certified, Soil Association certified, allows you to round-up to donate to their charity foundation, provides carbon offsetting options, and generally provides an ethical service – Matt also informed me that everyone at Pikt is paid above a living wage.

He also informed me that the unscrupulous pricing and produce management by supermarkets was part of what drove him to offer a service that ensures farmers aren’t being ripped off and that there are shorter supply chains. I am extremely pleased to see business owners like Matt taking a big stand on topics like this.

The ethos of most veg box delivery companies is exceptional – I particularly love how Abel & Cole are specifically transparent about the farms they work with and even show us photographs and bios of all the places they get their products from. If there’s anything I think Pikt could work on here, is that extra layer of transparency, which I believe will come it’s just a matter of time.

So why did I make the switch?

To summarise here are Pikt’s ratings against my criteria:

Quality – 5/5

Delivery – 5/5

Packaging – 4/5

Variety – 4/5

Ethics – 5/5

To me, this is was a very close race with Abel & Cole and I’d argue that it’s likely that they’re on par just in different ways.

The disadvantages for me, personally, with Abel & Cole are ones of convenience. With Pikt, I get to choose when I get my box and it’s delivered at a reasonable hour.

But also, with Pikt I know that absolutely everything I’m getting is going to breakdown within a few years at most. With Abel & Cole, I’m still getting some small bits of plastic.

So I feel like overall, Pikt is giving me minimum impact and maximum convenience.

I’m so enthusiastic about supporting a business that I feel is trying to do the best thing across their entire supply chain – not just for us consumers, but also for the famers, and for the planet. That’s the maximum I can expect, I think, from a veg box delivery company, and I’m sure the tiny issues I have with Pikt’s boxes are one that will be solved in time.

Guest post by Daljeet Singh.