Bringing seaweed coating to the diners of Dorset

April 29, 2022
Hive Beach Company

Let’s celebrate the Hive Beach Company joining the Notpla family!

We had the pleasure of interviewing Maisy - team leader at the Hive Beach Company - recently to better understand the role that Notpla takeaway boxes are playing in their business.  

The Hive Beach Company is a group of restaurants putting sustainability at the top of their business agenda. Comprised of three sites - The Hive Beach Cafe, The Club House and The Watch House - and situated along a short stretch of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, their mission is to use locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients and support local suppliers.

The Hive team pride themselves in serving fish caught from south-west waters, and, when available, straight from the very shoreline their customers overlook while eating their meals. They’ve recently decided to use our seaweed-coated takeaway boxes for their takeaway business, and were pleased to provide us with their first impressions.

The Hive Beach Cafe (credit: Sam Scales)

Could you please introduce yourself and The Hive Beach Company?

“My name is Maisy, and I'm the team leader at The Hive Beach Company. My family has been running this company since the beginning (31 years ago), and we’ve built it from the ground up. We started with the creation of the Hive Beach Cafe, then developed the Watch House 11 years ago and the Club House six years ago.

“We started as a very small business just on the beach. As soon as we got the opportunity to do something that resonated with us - and that was doing good for the environment - we decided to put sustainability on top of our agenda. We've always used sustainable fish and local businesses, local organic farms - we really try to keep as many things local as possible. When Jan from Notpla came to us and suggested having seaweed-coated takeaway boxes for our takeaway meals, we jumped on it!”

What was it about Notpla that made you want to work with us?

“The connection with the sea, definitely! We are based right on the beach, on the Jurassic Coast, and seaweed is everywhere around us. It made sense to have packaging that links with our local environment. So cool to have seaweed-coating in our takeaway boxes, isn't it?

“Also, for our packaging, we’ve always been looking for the best solution for the environment, checking if they were compostable and recyclable. As soon as we heard about Notpla, we knew that it would be the next step for us as it is a truly sustainable packaging solution. Again, there is this strong connection with the sea, because reducing plastic helps save the ocean. And here we are today, using Notpla’s boxes.”

Notpla Takeaway boxes

How critical an element is packaging in your business’s sustainability agenda? What are the other things you’re doing as a business to reduce your environmental footprint?

“At first, takeaway food wasn't playing a big role at the Hive. But as soon as Covid hit, everything changed, and we realised we had to adapt. We used one of our broken windows at the Club House to create a takeaway window and started to sell takeaway food. Having sustainable packaging was a key element of our strategy. We were already exploring solutions to have packaging that looks good for your food, but also does good for the environment at that time. As soon as Notpla’s packaging became widely available, we decided that have Notpla as our packaging supplier.

“Since then, packaging has been high on our agenda because it is what everybody sees. We are serving shellfish platters or a whole lobster that can cost up to £150. If it doesn't look good, people are not going to go for it. It is the packaging that makes things presentable.

“Having packaging that supports our effort to minimise our plastic consumption was important as well. Recently, we received a visit from the Mayor of Bridport to award us the Plastic Free Champion award. This prize is offered to businesses that are minimising their everyday use of plastic.

“Other than our takeaway packaging, we are always implementing new projects that can support our planet. Among them, we are trying to bring some fun to the beach by partnering with a company called Dick Pierce, which creates bellyboards -  giant skateboards. We are going to launch a rental service to give people the opportunity to use these boards without buying them.

“We are also doing some beach clean-ups across The Watch House and The Hive with litter-pickers from Dorset on the last Sunday of every month.”

Notpla Takeaway boxes on the beach

How have you engaged your employees in the packaging change? What has been their response?

“Our team is very young, I think the average age of an employee at the Hive is around 20-years-old. The younger generation is concerned about protecting the environment, so everyone is engaged with this packaging change in our team.

“To announce to the team the launch of Notpla takeaway boxes, we presented them at our managers’ morning meeting. During this session, we shared the leaflets and videos you created for us. Almost everyone was aware of this change, but it was great to inform the team and share content in a more official way. We loved the timelapse you did where we can see takeaway boxes disappear in your wormery! It is cool to see the biodegradation process in action.

“Our employees were super involved in communicating about our new takeaway boxes!

“In the restaurant, we did have a few clients who asked us how the new packaging was really a more sustainable solution. We explained that - contrary to most takeaway boxes - Notpla has no plastics nor PFAs, and that they were 100% home-compostable. Raising awareness of this hidden problem, and showing how Notpla was different, really helped.

“Also, we put some little posters in the Hive Beach Cafe to announce that we had new biodegradable packaging using seaweed coating instead of plastic!

“On social media, we did several posts on Instagram (cf Instagram post from the @hivebeachcafe below) to spread the news and we did some funny Tik Tok videos too! There's no point in going to work and hating it every day. At The Hive, we are more a family than a workplace, so it’s great to share all this fun with our customers.”

Have your customers commented on the change to Notpla boxes?

“Yes, they did! And the overall response was truly positive.

“Being so close to the ocean, people love that we can use local resources from the sea…to save the sea!

“The day of the launch of the Notpla takeaway boxes, we had a visit from the Mayor of Bridport to award us the Plastic Free Champion award (cf Instagram post from the @hivebeachcafe below). He loved the seaweed coated takeaway boxes. It was really the perfect timing. He also tried the ketchup sachet - your alternative to single-use plastic sauce sachets - and loved that too. We really hope we’ll be able to launch them soon at The Hive too.”

What do you think your customers care deeply about? Are environmental issues important to them?

“Recently, we definitely had more customers who wanted to go down a more eco-friendly route, and they are more informed about the plastics problem in our oceans. They are conscious that we are doing our part to improve our environmental impact, and that we are constantly exploring new ways of doing so. I know some other local businesses are still using some polystyrene packaging - something we haven't used for over a decade now - so I hope we can show the way to a better future down here..”

Notpla takeaway boxes

Are you seeing changes in your existing customers’ behaviours, or new customers joining you, because of what you stand for on sustainability?

“Yes, I think that we have customers, especially from the young generation, that are joining us because of what we stand for on sustainability. They are conscious that we are making little changes that have a positive impact on the environment, and they appreciate this effort. They know that it is part of our DNA, here at The Hive, and it is one of the reasons why they come to eat here.

Do you think your customers are willing to spend a little extra to support sustainability initiatives, like the move to plastic-free packaging?

“Yes, I believe the majority of customers would spend the extra money.

“Among our customers, 90% are fully on board with what we stand for, and they loved the fact that we moved to plastic-free packaging. They know that this type of initiative is the best for them, their kids or their grandkids.

“At the moment, with the cost of living going up massively, it is difficult to make the decision to add an extra cost to support our sustainable initiative. But customers seem to understand the need.

“It’s all about quality. Our customers are looking for a great food experience. It implies having the top quality for our food, but also our service, our location, and our packaging! I am not going to pretend that our food is cheap. If they are paying the extra money for a delicious quality meal, they are also happy to add an extra 20p or a pound to have a beautiful and sustainable food packaging too.”

Notpla & The Hive Club Company

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