For a long time, I wanted to subscribe to one of the organic veg boxes you can find online these days and recently I decided to make that move. There are quite a few providers in the UK selling organic fruits and vegetables online and out of the big players I decided to try Riverford first.
I chose not to subscribe for a weekly box just yet as I wasn’t sure whether it was worth my money. Instead, I bought a one-off organic veg and fruit box just to see what’s the quality like and what I actually get in it. If you are thinking of trying Riverford, check out my honest review below.
First of all, just briefly about Riverford. Riverford grow, make and source only 100% organic products and they’ve been doing that for over 30 years. Their focus is on seasonal items with 80% of veg grown in the UK.
It all started in 1987 when a farmer Guy Singh-Watson started growing organic veg in a field of his parents’ Devon farm. Since then many things have changed but Riverford still own the original Devon farm where it all began. In addition to that, they also own other organic farms with one of them being in France.
Riverford care about the environment greatly and use only packaging that you can safely compost or recycle at home. If you order from them repeatedly, they will collect your box from your doorsteps so that it can be reused up to 10 times.
Today Riverford don’t only sell organic fruits and veg but also meat, milk and dairy products and some other items as well.
The box I ordered was a medium-size Seasonal Organic Fruit & Veg Box which I believe is intended for 2-3 people. Here are all the details:
What was in the box
The produce I received (with its country of origin):
– Potatoes (UK)
– Purple carrots (UK)
– Fennel (UK)
– Savoy cabbage (UK)
– Cherry plum tomatoes (ES)
– Mushrooms (UK)
– Apples (UK)
– Bananas (DO, MX)
– Persimmons (ES)
On their website it doesn’t say how much of each produce you get – there is no weight or quantities which I don’t think it’s a good thing. Surely, customers would want to know if they receive 2 apples or 4??
For that reason, I decided to weigh some of the items to see how much I am actually getting. Here are my weigh-ins:
- potatoes: 1kg
- carrots: 219 g
I didn’t weigh all the items (which I regret now!) but just to mention that the fennel was really big, much bigger than the one you normally find in a supermarket. Savoy cabbage was also decent in size. I felt there could be some more tomatoes and mushrooms but I guess these must have been measured out.
EDIT: After reviewing Riverford on my blog, I contacted them to ask about the weight and quantities I am expected to receive in each box and here is what they said:
We do not set out the weights of each item in the box other than during the Christmas week. The reason for this is the box final content planning can only be done on the Friday when the quantities coming into the barn are known and allowances made for non deliveries or unplanned quality problems. Once this is known the contents are put together for each of the different box types and this will vary each week. and is marked on the packaging of the contents in the box but not uploaded on our web site.
In the box, there were 7 apples, 3 bananas and 4 persimmons. How random! From their online pictures, you think you would get much more than this.
EDIT: After questioning the quantities received in this box, this is how Riverford customer service responded:
I am so sorry that you received only 3 bananas in this weeks order. I believe this may have been a packing error as a rough guide for the weight of bananas in the box is 800g. I have credited your Riverford account £2 to cover the cost of this. The credit will be automatically deducted from the cost of your next order.
To be honest, I feel this box was barely enough for 2 people who love to eat vegetables and fruits every day. We finished the fruits very quickly, I think in about 5 days but savoy cabbage lasted for a long time as it was so big. We just used it in salads every day and we did the same with fennel.
All the fruits and veg looked fresh and of good quality. There was no damaged or bruised produce, so I was really happy with the overall quality. Here is what I thought of individual items:
- purple carrots – they were firm and the taste was great, not as sweet as orange carrots, loved these!
- potatoes – firm, fresh, no green bits, very good quality
- bananas – they could have been a little bit less ripe
- apples and persimmons – sweet and tasty, no bruising
- tomatoes – good but I wish there was a few more in the box
- savoy cabbage and mushrooms – all great
I personally thought that the box I ordered was quite expensive for what I received but this is what Riverford say about their prices:
Every month, we compare our veg box prices against the equivalent organic veg in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Our boxes are very competitive – and often come out a bit cheaper. Last year, our veg boxes averaged 5% less than the supermarkets.
Riverford vs Supermarket
Well, let’s have a look at the supermarkets mentioned above and see whether their statement is true.
Prices correct as of December 2020:
|Veg/Fruit||Tesco Price||Sainsbury’s Price||Waitrose price|
|Potatoes||£1.50 (1.5kg)||£2.30 (2kg)||£2.25 (1.5kg)|
|Carrots||£1 (700g)||£1.25 (750g)||£1 (650g)|
|Fennel||no organic version||no organic version||no organic version|
|Savoy cabbage||no organic version||Only organic Sweetheart Cabbage available – £1.50||£1.60|
|Cherry plum tomatoes||£1.70 (250g – Organic Cherry On The Vine Tomatoes)||£1.85 (225g)||£2 (225g)|
|Mushrooms||£1.20 (250g – organic chestnut mushrooms)||£1.20 (300g – organic chestnut mushrooms)||£1.50 ( (250g – organic chestnut mushrooms)|
|Apples||£2.25 (630g or 6 apples – Royal Gala)||£2.30 (6 apples – Royal Gala||£2.50 (4 apples – Royal Gala)|
|Bananas||£1.35 – 5 bananas||£1.25 (6 bananas)||£1.90 (6 bananas)|
|Persimmons||no organic version||no organic version||no organic version|
Now, if we look at the table above and add everything together (the cheapest prices) and assume that organic versions would cost double the price when organic is not available in a supermarket, here is what we get:
- Potatoes – £1.50
- Carrots – £1
- Fennel – approx. £2
- Savoy cabbage – £1.60
- Cherry plum tomatoes – £1.70
- Mushrooms – £1.20
- Apples – £2.25
- Bananas – £1.25
- Persimmons – approx. £2
- TOTAL: £14.5
So the total comes at around £14 but do keep in mind that the weight and quantities are not exactly the same to the ones received from Riverford. You get much more for your money when you buy from supermarkets.
The total price definitely doesn’t make this box any cheaper when compared to various supermarkets so what Riverford are saying on their website is not exactly true. But maybe another box will be better value for money?
If you have time then you will save some money by shopping around but the question is: is it worth it? They say time is money and ordering online is so much easier than visiting several supermarkets so at the end of the day this box is still worth buying as it saves time and hassle?
What I didn’t like
When I was placing an order, I had an option to choose from a few different boxes and the one I picked contained very specific vegetables which I wanted to use for weaning my baby. So I was really disappointed when I received an email shortly after placing my order, saying that they occasionally have to swap veg the last minute, therefore the contents of the box may vary.
In the same email, they listed new contents of the box which was so much different to the one I actually bought. I really wasn’t happy. This certainly wasn’t clear on their website! And if they knew certain changes were necessary why haven’t they updated the website to reflect the latest box contents?
After looking at Riverford’s website again, I noticed that there was a note about possible box contents changes at the end of the text describing the box but that was not very noticeable. It should definitely be highlighted and brought to the top so that customers avoid disappointment! Also, while browsing their website I read somewhere that if you are not happy with the contents of the box, then you should get in touch with them. It seems that they can do something about it?
If you liked my review and are happy to buy from Riverford but have some questions, here are some of the things customers frequently ask:
How does Riverford work?
If you wish to purchase one of Riverford’s fruit, veg or meat boxes, you simply choose your desired size and then either subscribe for regular deliveries or just buy a box as a one-off.
You have an option to have the box delivered to you every week, every 2 weeks, every 3 weeks or every 4 weeks. The price is the same regardless of the option you choose. If you like, you can add extra items to your order like different fruits or vegetables or daily essentials such as milk, cheese, bread and eggs.
Where is Riverford farm?
The original Riverford farm (Wash Farm) is still fully operating and it’s based in Devon (off the A384 that links Buckfastleigh with Totnes). In addition to this, Riverford also own the following farms:
- Sacrewell Farm, Peterborough
- Upper Norton Farm, Hampshire
- Home Farm, Yorkshire
- Le Boutinard, France
Is Riverford meat grass-fed?
Yes, their beef and turkey are all grass-fed while their chickens are reared to Soil Association standards.
Riverford – The final verdict
All in all, you won’t be disappointed if you buy from Riverford. The quality is definitely there with excellent, great-tasting produce that will impress. However, you get more for your money when you buy from supermarkets and keep in mind that the box contents vary and can change at the last minute. While some people won’t mind this, some people will but if you are not happy with the contents, you can always get in touch with them although I am not totally sure what they can do about it.
I will be personally looking at their offerings again and maybe pick another box or try some of their other products which are available to buy on their website. But this time I will make sure I contact them in advance to confirm the contents of the box and to ask about the weight and quantities so that I know what to expect.