As I’m sure all of you will have noticed, Pret A Manger is coming to St Andrews. It is hard to miss as you walk along Market Street, positioned about half way between Starbucks and Costa, likely its two main rivals in the ‘students-grabbing-coffee-on-the way-to-lectures’ market.
What does Pret have that may distinguish it from Costa and Starbucks (henceforth called Costabucks, an apt comment on the market status of Costa and the price of their coffee – and because it’s a funny word)?
Costabucks both advertise their fairtrade and organic policies when it comes to their coffee sourcing, but Pret A Manger goes one step further. For you Sustainable Development students, Pret is committed to ethical production and sourcing of products in their Sustainable Strategy for 2015. In this, amongst other initiatives, they have installed energy saving equipment at 10 stores so far and plan to roll this out across all their stores.
Products such as the Chipotle Chicken and Avocado Wrap and the Nectarine and Raspberry Fruit Salad challenge Pret’s dedication to local produce, with ingredients that simply cannot be grown in Britain’s lovely climate and thus are shipped in. Howver, for particularly ethically anxious consumers, all the source locations of their ingredients can be found on Pret’s website. The Tribe reached out to Pret for more details and they told us that in the UK Pret has received awards from Compassion in World Farming, including the Good Egg Award 2013 (Pret only uses free range eggs), the Good Pig Award 2012 (for higher welfare pigs), and the Good Chicken Award 2013 (for higher welfare chickens who conditions also meet RSPCA approved standard.) The company itself admits that there are still ways to go with these standards internationally, although they do insist on 100% organic produce.
An extra karmic reason for shopping at Pret A Manger is the company’s effort to contribute to society. At the end of their first day’s trading in 1986 they donated their leftover food to people sleeping rough nearby. Now they donate £2.7 million in products a year. This was the start of an enduring commitment to homeless people – with Pret donating £1m last year alone to the cause – food donations and the apprenticeship scheme. The Pret Foundation Trust, funded by collection boxes and the sale of certain marked products, raised £1.2 million in 2013, which was divided between dozens of worthy causes, including soup kitchens, homeless shelters and addiction support. So feel good when you’re buying your Vietnamese Pulled Pork Salad.
Of the people I’ve asked, most seem positive about the arrival of Pret A Manger to St Andrews with 87.5% of students surveyed saying they were excited. But even amongst those who are looking forward to enjoying Pret A Manger’s coffee and food, some saw problems with its imminent appearance on the St Andrews coffee shop scene. It is true that St A’s is by no means in short supply of coffee shops with Taste, Northpoint, Bibi’s, Costa, Starbucks, Gorgeous and Beanscene to name a few, and does St Andrews really need another chain to rival such local gems as Taste and Northpoint? As one subject of my one question survey said, “In St Andrews, it degrades the integrity and rural nature of the town. However I will be going there to buy yummy sandwiches. I am a hungry-ass student.”
Personally, I don’t feel that the arrival of Pret A Manger will poach many customers from our independent cafes. Each have their own appeal outside of the food and coffee they serve, and some people will always eschew the corporate giants in favour of a more intimate feel and supporting independent businesses.
So what do you think? Is Pret A Manger and its healthy, wholesome, ethical fare a welcome arrival in St Andrews? Or will you be sticking to the vegan brownies of Taste and the London Fog at Beanscene?
*The content of Perspective articles, as with all articles posted on the Tribe, reflects solely the views of the authors. The opinions expressed are not those of the Tribe as a publication or necessarily those of any other member of the editorial and/or writing staff*