The Growth of Health Food Shops
Over the past few years I have witnessed more independent health hubs springing up in towns and cities across the UK, from organic food suppliers to zero-waste stores. What some may refer to as overpriced hippy-dippy gimmicks, others would describe as a new generation of mindful, indie shop owners who all share the same goal, to promote a healthy lifestyle through consumption.
What is it that makes these stores so unique in our communities? Quite simply the priority of organic cafes, health food shops, and vegan delis is to offer the “hard-to-find” healthy option on a plate by economical methods. So many of us find it difficult to remember a time when a supermarket chain did not shadow our hometown, stealing custom from low-key fruit and vegetable markets, family owned butchers, and independent bakeries. Convenience can win over a busy family with the ease of online shopping. With the click of a button a week’s worth of groceries lands on our doorstep. Our local supermarket can supply us with fruit, vegetables, meat, baked goods, all with the bonus bombardment of special offers on refined sugar packed products and chemical-ridden household items. Why do the masses fall for the supermarket trap? Probably because everything can be bought under one roof, fitting in with our fast-paced modern life. But is supermarket food and production really any good for us and the planet?
Let’s look at what these health hub stores have to offer that mainstream supermarkets do not. Health food shops are conscious of the HEALTH of you and your family. Wrapping such as plastic and cellophane has become a problematic issue on our planet and zero-waste shops strive to counterbalance this by making as little impact on the environment as possible. One example of this is Food.Earth.Love – The Zero Waste Shop, an organic, wholefoods shop based in Totnes, South Devon, UK, set up by the lovely Nicola and Richard, along with baby Willow.
Nicola and Richard’s Story
We are passionate about the Earth we live on, the food we eat and we believe everything should be built on love. We are only just beginning our zero-waste journey, we are not perfect but each day we strive to be a better version of the people we were the day before. We thrive in learning new things and tackle challenges with passion and enthusiasm.
We have a vision for the kind of world we want our children to grow up in and this shop is helping to make that a reality. It is with pride that we open our doors to you, as we work together as a community in creating a healthier planet.
How the Zero-Waste Shop Got Started
Not so long ago, living a fast-paced city life in an apartment block that had no recycling facilities we soon began to notice the accumulation of recycling we (as a family of 2) created each week. It was during these trips to and from the recycling plant that we thought ‘there must be another way?’ Each shopping trip then became a frustrating ordeal, as we so desperately tried to avoid unnecessary (and often toxic!) packaging.
Living gently on this planet can be approached from many different angles; having shorter showers, cycling to work and ditching the aerosols, but what if changing the way you shop becomes the most powerful form of activism that you do? Every time you make a purchase, you cast a vote for the kind of world you wish to live in. We want that world to be sustainable, clean and thriving for our future generations to enjoy.
We look forward to you joining us on this mission; together we can be the generation of change!
The Zero-Waste Shop Ethos: “We want to live in a world where consuming doesn’t have to cost the earth! Focusing on creating a better future, we decided to look back to the past, where eating real food with minimal packaging was normal practice. We believe returning to these simple ways will benefit not only our health, but the planets too.”
What an amazing way to reduce the consumption of waste in our homes and stores by refilling jars and canisters as we conduct our weekly food shop, rather than bringing more plastic and wrapping into the world. This new, exciting method of shopping from dispensers and larger reused containers is catching on in greener towns and a new trend is appearing on social media where families are taking part in the ‘No Plastic’ challenge.
Staff members in health food shops tend to be experts in an organic and chemical free lifestyle and genuinely have a personal interest in a clean living. They offer advice on the care of your body internally and externally. Overall they offer products we would never stumble across in supermarkets. I personally know the angst of getting to the end of the fluoride-free toothpaste tube or the horror of opening a pot of dried out paraben-free deodorant, simply because the local supermarket round the corner doesn’t sell such items. But as more and more stores open in our neighbourhood, travelling far for health products or purchasing online is becoming a thing of the past.
Sprout Health Foods. The Health Hub of Newquay, Cornwall, UK
I live in a small seasonal town in Cornwall, UK, where I have been accustomed to travelling 40 minutes to my nearest city to stock up on my health faves. But on the 1st July 2016 a unique and friendly health food shop called SPROUT opened its doors to the people of Newquay, a perfect addition to a town well known for its surfer residents and yoga enthusiasts. It’s a given why Claire Heron-Maxwell and Sebastian (‘Bast’) Venn started a partnership running this gem of a store in the heart of Newquay, where a Health Food supplier really was needed.
Sprout Health Foods stocks wholefoods, including organic nuts, seeds, grains, flakes, dried fruits, and cereals. This stock is predominantly organic. The store holds a modest range of organic fresh fruit and vegetables, including fresh turmeric root, ginger root, and lemons. A wide variety of vegan-friendly items such as nutritional yeast flakes, cheese alternatives, hemp oil, plant ‘milks’, coconut oil, and coconut cream can be found too. With Claire’s personal knowledge in gluten-free items, customers can be sure to find alternative pastas, noodles and cereals, condiments, and baking ingredients. A favourite of mine has to be the array of household cleaning products, toiletries, and alternative remedies.
Coffee lovers can be sure to find plant-based milk alternative beverages in the Sprout café. The team make their own turmeric paste for Golden Milk (turmeric latte) from the organic fresh turmeric and ginger root that they sell in the grocery section. In response to customers requesting Chai Lattes without the refined sugar syrups, Claire and Bast are now making their own Chai Syrup using a host of spices and coconut palm sugar. A daily hot-pot is up for grabs which is unfailingly gluten-free and vegan-friendly, together with a wide selection of snacks and raw cakes which everybody can enjoy.
The Sprout Ethos: “We believe food should be about health, vitality, community and fun!”
– Now that’s a statement I am yet to see on the doors of my local supermarket!
An Interview with Claire of Sprout Health Foods
So let’s talk to Claire and find out what inspired her to water the seed that became SPROUT.
Claire, what is your background in the Health Food industry?
I was diagnosed as expressing the Coeliac autoimmune condition at the age of 28. This sparked my interest in the health issues that are becoming increasingly prevalent in the Western World, which encouraged me to study Nutritional Therapy at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. Around this time, I also began working at the inspirational Archie Browns Health Food Shop in Truro. During the nearly six years that I worked within the amazing staff team, I learned more about the variety of foods that are available to those who either choose to observe a predominantly wholefood-based diet, or who must follow a restricted diet due to health reasons.
Bast (a qualified Architect) has been a willing accomplice to our adventure into the world of ‘health’ foods, happily trying out or cooking whichever novel food item appeared in our fridge or cupboard over the years, from delicious nut butters to slimy kombucha scobys. Having learnt to cope with chronic problematic skin issues, predominantly via diet and lifestyle modifications, he is perfectly placed to understand the effects of the health issues that many of our customers deal with on a daily basis.
Together, we opened a health food shop with a small café space in central Newquay, where there had been no such shop since the last one closed it’s doors around twelve years ago.
How do you personally contribute to protecting the planet with your lifestyle?
We choose to follow a predominantly plant-based diet, which we believe is a more sustainable use of the world’s resources when compared to the modern methods of industrial livestock production.
Opening Sprout Health Foods has allowed us to increase the availability and variety of traditional, vegetarian health food items to the people of Newquay, where previously, in order to source these they may have had to either visit multiple supermarkets, travel to a neighbouring town, or resort to online purchasing to obtain a similar array of items.
We choose to live directly above our shop, embracing town centre living. We were fortunate enough to purchase the building which now houses Sprout Health Foods, and decided to renovate it in such a way as to provide a sustainable live-in work unit, eliminating the need to commute to work dramatically reducing our daily consumption of travel-related fossil fuels.
What does a healthy community mean to you and how important is it?
To us, a healthy community means one with unwavering inclusively, because social isolation in densely populated areas is becoming increasingly common and has detrimental effects on the physical and mental health of its individual members. We understand that it is becoming increasingly important for people to take responsibility for their own health and well-being and this will only happen if the community joins together to promote the basic principles of leading a healthy lifestyle. Ideally, this would involve people choosing to shop seasonally and locally, opting to buy produce from nearby, small-scale farmers where possible, feeding into a vibrant local business community.
Do you hope to ignite people’s consciousness about Veganism?
At Sprout, we actively promote a predominantly wholefood-based diet and have a selection of plant-based recipe books, health and wellbeing books and magazines available for customers to dip into while sat around our communal café table. We are very keen to help dispel the myth that meat is essential to a filling, tasty, nutritionally complete meal. We take pride in providing hearty and wholesome meat-dairy-and gluten-free-one-pot meals and cakes in our small café. It’s particularly rewarding when staunch meat-eaters are so happy with the food on their plates when eating at Sprout, that they ask for the recipe to take home with them – which we happily give them.
What events are held at Sprout?
Although the shop space is relatively small, we designed it in such a way as to make it as adaptable as possible, with events in mind. We have one large communal table that is great for gathering customers around when hosting smaller, informal talks. We have had free talks on subjects such as an Ayurvedic approach to health, numerous gut health talks with komucha or sauerkraut workshops, knitting and sewing sessions, and even a speciality coffee ‘cupping’ tasting session. We host a regular Monday morning charity yoga session, we have held sound healing events, astrological talks and will soon begin to show independent films. We are pleased that the shop space is becoming somewhere that like-minded people are able to congregate to learn and exchange ideas. It is lovely to be able to facilitate this.
What changes do you want to see on the Earth in ten years time?
We would like to see children being educated from an early age about environmental issues, cooking and nutrition, gardening and growing, and being encouraged to lead active, healthy lifestyles. A transition away from the current ‘throwaway’ culture, where greater value is placed on products that are robust and designed to last. It is interesting that some products, where they do have a limited lifespan, now have an alternative re-use designed into them. Less dependence on fossil fuels is a clear goal, combined with a more simple, uncluttered, low-tech approach to sustainable living.
Claire and Bast’s urgency and knowledge about health is inspiring and motivating. Such a lifestyle not only has positive effects on our bodies and minds but also the planet. Can you set yourself a goal to go vegan for one whole month? Maybe the effects of your ailments will reduce, or can you and your family do the ‘No Plastic’ challenge and reduce waste in your home?
We live in a world where humans experience premature deterioration due to fatal disease linked to the exposure of carcinogenic chemicals and the intake of non-organic and manmade produce – a healthy lifestyle can not only save our HEALTH but save the EARTH too.