Go co-op for bulk organic in Dublin

Zero waste came to the fore in 2018, with more and more options to buy loose wholefoods by weight. In many instances, though, these were only well-suited to people wanting relatively small amounts of the available products. For those wanting bigger quantities – such as organic flour for home-baking – the cost per kilo of this approach has been its biggest draw-back. It’s just plain expensive! The real savings with bulk purchasing come from buying ‘wholesale’, rather than retail – an option that’s generally off-limits for ordinary households. However, two food co-ops in the city are addressing this issue in different ways.

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Buying with minimal waste

Tomorrow, I’ll be setting out with an assortment of bags and containers to fill with organic wholefoods – nuts, seeds, pulses, rice and more. Yet, my destination won’t be a zero waste shop or stall, but rather a low-key warehouse in Dublin’s North Inner City. There, a ‘pop-up’ co-op will spring into action to allocate pre-ordered deliveries.

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How many members is ‘enough’?

The idea of forming a bulk buying club may sound like it would involve recruiting lots of people, but that’s probably not the case. Two related pieces of advice shine through a range of published guides to running such a group:

  • Start small
  • If you can, start with people you already know
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Joining the zero waste club?

As today’s Irish Times highlights, a wave of Zero Waste shops and initiatives have sprouted around Ireland and Britain over the past two years, helped by popular campaigns against single-use plastics and a healthy media appetite for the topic. While many of the new initiatives have taken the form of small retail outlets, the bulk buying club model has also been adopted by those looking to go packaging-free, as with London’s Naked Larder.

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Don’t let ‘bulk’ put you off

If you live in a small house or apartment with limited storage, the idea of buying food in bulk may simply sound impractical. However, it’s important to understand that with a bulk buying club, bulk ordering is a collective process which doesn’t necessary mean that individual members and households each have to commit to large quantities. Thus, a group may be ordering 25kg sacks of rice or lentils while making it possible for members to benefit from simply taking a modest share, say of 1 or 2kg. In this way, everyone can benefit from the lowest possible cost per kilo but no-one is compelled to take more food than they can use or comfortably store.

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When brands change hands

Unilever’s 2017 buy-out of Pukka Herbs raised the issue of popular organic brands becoming acquisition targets for multinational companies – in this case a huge corporation whose products range from processed foods to detergents, with brands including PG Tips and Domestos, and operations which include palm oil and tea plantations.

This post discusses how widespread this phenomenon has become and explains the advantage that bulk buying clubs have in responding to such shifts.

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Buying clubs on Brexit watch

Many people across the island of Ireland are keeping a close eye on Brexit developments – and bulk buying club members are no exception.

Several groups based in the Republic currently source their deliveries from British wholefood cooperatives, importing without the slightest issue due to the two countries’ shared EU membership. However, in just five months, these small-scale arrangements could become untenable under a potential ‘No Deal Brexit’ bringing the return of tariffs and a range of import procedures. Continue reading “Buying clubs on Brexit watch”

The problem with health food shops

I’m always glad that there are small, independent shops that sell wholefoods. The best of them steer clear of the temptation to pack their shelves with high-profit vitamins and supplements, with owners genuinely believing that good wholesome food is the best medicine.

But there’s a problem, still – one that the bulk buying club approach can fix. Continue reading “The problem with health food shops”