If you’ve long sought out organic products for your diet and general lifestyle, you probably appreciate how the range of offerings from organic retailers has broadened in the past decade or so.
Garth Owen founded Organic Grocer in Surrey 25 years ago and still owns and operates the busy 3,000-square-foot store with his wife, Deb Foote. He smiles when he thinks about how far the industry has come since then.
He remembers well the transition from farmers certifying themselves, to the point where now the federal government oversees organic certification and product labelling. Along the way, interest has surged from consumers looking for healthier alternatives to mass-produced food and household products.
“The demand is incredible,” says Owen, whose store was one of the first certified organic retailers in Canada.
Celebrating 25 years of organic growth
In Surrey, the demographic has changed through the years from largely rural to predominantly urban and significantly more ethnically diverse. Not only that, people are more aware of their health and their ability to have more control over the quality of food ingested. “It’s not like it used to be 25 years ago,” Owen says. “For some people, organic food was a difficult concept, but now it is part of the mainstream.”
Over the years, the store’s product range has expanded greatly, prompting Owen to say Organic Grocer has “multiple personalities.” Among the highlights from the store’s product lines:
- There’s a full range of organic grocery items, from produce and packaged goods to meat, poultry and dairy. They also carry environmentally friendly cleaning products, which sell well in winter when people’s homes are sealed and indoor air quality decreases.
- With one of the largest vitamin sections in Surrey, the store has upped its preventative/wellness game. Along with a staff of product experts who are constantly learning more, they employ a master herbalist, holistic nutritionist and experts in “beauty without cruelty.”
- GMO products are weeded out as staff discover them. A large number of wheat and gluten-free products are available, in colour-coded packaging for ease of identification.
The four S’s: skin, sleep, stomach and sex
Customers often come in looking for answers to health questions relating to all four areas, Owen says. “That’s why we have accredited staff, but we also lean on our naturopathic doctors to give us some guidance.”
The store has a mutually beneficial relationship with various local doctors and specialists, who hold mini-clinics there at least once a month, and diagnose patients referred by store staff, who usually come back to purchase products.
Click here for a list of 25th anniversary activities, clinics and workshops hosted this month by Organic Grocer, or stop by the store on King George Highway in Newton. (Find more online at #25OGYears or #LivingTheEthicalLife)