LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer, is embracing the recession-inspired trend to "grow your own" produce by offering allotment spaces to rent in the U.K and selling live chickens.
In a bid to mark out its green credentials, Tesco has applied for planning permission to create an initial batch of 30 allotments near one of its Dobbies Garden Centre stores near Southport in the north of England. Dobbies, a 24-store chain acquired by Tesco a year ago, has seen a boom in sales of vegetable seeds over the past year, and will also sell an allotment "starter kit" to provide customers with everything they need to get growing and help novices keep soil fertile and sustain the patch of ground.
Consumers have been embracing self-sufficiency as a means of beating the credit crisis, and allotment waiting lists have increased since the start of the recession.
Even before the recession, U.K. consumers were growing more and more of their own food, encouraged by concern for the environment. According to the Horticultural Trades Association says, edible seed sales increased 30% last year.
Tesco encourages allotments on the "greener living" pages of its website, recommending them as a good way to get fresh air and exercise, help children learn about nature, preserve the environment, reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides, reduce shopping bills and meet new people.
Plans to expand
James Barnes, CEO of Dobbies Garden Centres, said, "As well as Southport, we are also proposing to develop allotments at our Atherstone garden center site, and are looking at our other sites around the country to see where else we could accommodate the concept."
Allotments are small pieces of ground, often close to railways or otherwise unused sites, which local residents rent at low rates (usually $15 to $75 a year) for growing vegetables and flowers. Councils are legally obliged to provide allotment land, and many have waiting lists of up to 10 years.
Dobbies will also be selling chicks and live egg-laying chickens following a year-long successful pilot in one of its stores. Chicken coops have been bestsellers in many stores and online.
A Dobbies spokesperson said, "While it's probably a step too far to think that consumers will turn their back gardens into farms, keeping chickens does seem to be striking a chord with some of our customers. We have a range of 'grow your own produce' products which is very successful. We are listening to customer feedback to find out if 'growing your own eggs' could be the next step."
Prices start at around $7.50 for chicks and $280 for chicken coops.
Some allotment holders have branded Tesco a hypocrite after it was revealed that the chain is planning to destroy a batch of allotments in the east of England by covering them with tarmac in order to create easy access to a new superstore.