Food & Lifestyle
Buying organic in Sydney
Macro Wholefoods

Macro Wholefoods are one of the older organic outlets in Sydney. They have two stores, at Bondi Junction and Newtown.

Bondi Junction store manager, Peter Poulos has presided over recent changes, including new, larger premises and an expanded range of products. Peter told Acres "the environment is bringing more people into our store, and publicity over GMOs are attracting people to organics".

"Health is the other concern. We have a large sugar free and gluten free section, which people come for."

The new store is equipped with shopping trolleys. Peter says "its amazing how much difference the trolleys make. People take their time much more now, and are prepared to shop longer and take home a more complete range of product."

The bread section looks very good, and is located towards the front of the store. Seventeen bakeries supply the store with many styles and shapes of loaves and rolls, including interstate sources such as the Celtic Bakery from Southport (Qld).

The grains, cereals and pulses section is also impressively large. Peter says "we pack a lot of this ourselves. We also have a bulk section, which is cheaper, where we try to encourage customers to bring their own packaging. It will be made more user friendly in the near future, and dispenses products such as grain, cereal, oils and honey. We are trying loose eggs, which retail at $3.65 per dozen instead of $4.95, if people bring back their own carton".

The freezer section contains ravioli, 'Pasta Vera' products, 'Magpies' (frozen pies), soy and other non-dairy deserts and other products.

A fridge contains a very wide range of processed food. Peter explains "we are very pleased with the number of new products, and with the Australian content of this section. There is a good range of tempeh and 'GM free' or organic produc."

The large gluten free section contains pasta, rice cereals, noodles and ramens. Peter says this section is responsible for bringing many customers into the store.

The increased range of organic processed foods available over the last few years is remarkable. I am impressed, but I note the high level of imports. Peter responds "we have been trying to get local processors to make organic products in Australia, with some success."

Looking at the range, we note potato chips, juice, lemonade, frozen deserts and meals and confectionery made in the USA. I am very surprised to see organic 'Fruit-e-o's', 'Cocoa Crispy Rice' (Coco-pops) and other products. The product is expensive. Is it frivolous? Should we be developing these type of organic products, or encouraging people back to a simple, unprocessed diet. We decide that in the end is very good and positive to have such choices. All those allergy suffering children, who until now felt very left out and hard done by can now pop a treat into their school lunch bag and eat a sugar-free, gluten free breakfast similar to the ones they see their friends eating. They are more likely to stick with the diet this way, and suffer fewer reactions - making them into a long-term aware or organic consumer.

Australian organic sugar and New Zealand organic baby food are other products which have recently become available.

Macro Wholefoods also employs four naturopaths, who talk to customers and provide advice in the dispensary. This is now an established feature of larger organic stores, such as Scott Kinnears Lygon Street store in Melbourne. Customers can make appointments for consultation, by casual advice on the products comes free.

The store is growing rapidly, with nearly 4,000 customers per week.

The cafe

Lex Van Santen manages the cafe at Macro Wholefoods. He says about 70% of produce is made on site, for the Bondi Junction cafe, and some is sent to the Newtown store. The remainder is supplied by Helios, One Earth, or other Sydney manufacturers.

The cafe is vegan, and many customers are looking for a macrobiotic diet.

Lex told us "Macro Wholefoods cafe uses the finest organic and biodynamic produce available seasonally - incorporating world, modern and macrobiotic influences. We daily create exciting new dishes. Our aim is to maintain our integrity and reputation as a great provider of vegetarian and vegan food."

The Earth Food Store

Caroline Attwool has been running The Earth Food Store at Bondi Beach for over seven years.

She says her customers include "mums with kids, people who are sick, especially with AIDS and cancer, and young, health aware people."

She agrees that GMO may have encouraged more people to organic, but says this influence is difficult to sort out from seasonal fluctuation and general increase in interest in organic.

Caroline told Acres that supply is OK for her, but she does rely on long-term contacts in the industry. "Supply is short and we could see a 50 - 60n% increase in production".

She says that generally everything could be better supplied, with broccoli in demand this week, and produce such as tomatoes and shallots often hard to source.

"Too few producers gives the existing suppliers too much price control, and limits the growth of organic."

Glebe Point Meat

Frank Fotiou has been supplying organic meat on Glebe Point Road for 1.5 years, mainly responding to requests from customers. He says that his trade in organic meat is still small, but he wants to sell only organic meat from next year. He told Acres "it's too confusing swapping back and forth between organic and conventional, I will go completely organic so that there is no confusion."

"The customers want it, but at the present there is only one main wholesaler."

Excellent signage draws attention to the organic produce. It is brightly coloured and clearly stands out against other signs in the street. Inside, the display is equally attractive, and Frank is willing to discuss the produce with his customers, who are interested in fine details about where and how the meat is produced.

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