Refill everything from dried food to hand sanitiser at eco-friendly Devon shop

PUBLISHED: 15:35 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:52 06 July 2020

Maria and Jeremy Knowles are pleased with customer response during lockdown. Photo: Steve Haywood

Maria and Jeremy Knowles are pleased with customer response during lockdown. Photo: Steve Haywood

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Poppadums in Dawlish is helping its customers lead greener, more sustainable lives.

Customers come in regularly to top up their containers with a wide range of products: Photo: Steve HaywoodCustomers come in regularly to top up their containers with a wide range of products: Photo: Steve Haywood

From panic buying toilet rolls to queuing around the block just to get into the store, grocery shopping during lockdown has been a stressful process. It has also meant that many of the good intentions we had started to create when it came to shopping sustainably have gone out of the very window we’ve all been staring out of for months on end.

It is saddening, but perhaps understandable, that consumers are preferring single use items rather than refilling but it’s thoroughly disheartening to see plastic gloves and masks discarded after use by the side of the road.

However, there is one business that has been there for its customers throughout this uncertain time in our lives, offering essential, sustainable supplies and a little bit normality in an abnormal world.

Poppadums started life in Dawlish over 40 years ago initially selling spices, hence the name. Over time it has evolved, with another shop in Teignmouth and an online shop called Ultra Vitality responding to the increasing demand of customers wanting to shop better and wiser.

‘Refill, refill’ is the mantra at Poppadums. Photo: Steve Haywood‘Refill, refill’ is the mantra at Poppadums. Photo: Steve Haywood

Run by Maria and Jeremy Knowles it is very much a family firm as Maria shares with me: “Jeremy’s parents started the shop and gradually they changed it into the health food line which was really ahead of its time as there weren’t many health food shops around then. About 20 years later they opened a shop in Teignmouth which Jeremy ran; we then got together and took over from his parents when they wanted to retire.”

Read more: the young Devon farmer making organic milk

The most popular products are washing-up liquid, washing powders and hand soap. Photo: Steve HaywoodThe most popular products are washing-up liquid, washing powders and hand soap. Photo: Steve Haywood

It is a family business that has certainly had to change and respond to demand as time has gone on, none more so than during the recent Covid-19 crisis: “We have realised during lockdown how much people rely on us. We are lucky that we have been able to remain open as people do most of their weekly shop with us. We have delivered as well, which has been so well received and customers have been very grateful.”

‘Refill, refill’ is the mantra in this shop with customers coming in regularly to top up their containers with a wide range of products but the main ones being washing-up liquid, washing powders and hand soap and, of course, more recently the elusive hand sanitiser!

Maria explains that they are taking every precaution: “We are being very careful with refills at the moment, using gloves and if anything that has to be weighed the scales are disinfected between uses. But we also have this fantastic post box in the shop for those who do buy things in packets, such as chickpeas, from the company we use called Queenswood, then they can bring those packets back. Pop them in our post box, we’ll send them back and the company recycles.”

From freshly-baked bread to reusable tea bags - yes there is such a thing and it’s not just dunking your PG Tips twice - there is a wide range of products in Poppadums that can assist you with living that greener, more sustainable, life.

Maria tells me: “We have thought of opening a do-it-yourself- shop just for refills but we find customers love the one to one contact and advice we can offer.”

Small businesses such as Poppadums are not going to find the coming months easy but it seems this one has had a loyal following for years and as they have stayed open and loyal to their customers then they might just make it through. Because let’s face it, if you could do most of your weekly shop locally, spend less time in a big supermarket queue and save the planet too then why wouldn’t you do just that?

Tips on how to shop smarter:

If you have storage space, buy dried goods in bulk – this means fewer individual packages.

Organic fruit and veg in supermarkets is often highly packaged – because it is marketed as high-value luxury produce. Complain about this to your supermarket – or, better still, join a box scheme

And, of course – re-use or refuse supermarket carrier bags!

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