Our spring issue is out now. Editor Persephone Kianka spoke with Alan McGrath, the National Organiser for Health Stores Ireland, to understand the importance of the ‘passion supply chain’ in this sector. Dive on in to learn more…
The Passion Supply Chain
Health Food Stores Creating Connection
by Persephone Kianka
Health Stores Ireland represents health food stores all across the country, and out of these 120 stores, the majority are single-owner-run. Ireland first saw significant growth in this sector around 30-40 years ago; with health food stores popping up in every town and village, the country went from having a dozen stores to about two hundred in all at the moment. As Alan McGrath, the National Organiser for Health Stores Ireland, notes, this sector is anything but static, and today, we see it morphing again to meet new demands.
The term ‘passion supply chain’ emerged at a conference just a few months ago, reflecting the health food industry’s rapidly evolving vision. A retail consultant from the UK invented this phrase to express the “strength in an independent specialist industry in an area where there is defined growth.” This growth can look like grocery multiples expanding their health and wellness sections or ordinary cafés becoming more health-conscious in their approach.
Ultimately, the passion supply chain is what will make the independent specialist sector differ from grocery multiples without losing any of the value that has brought the industry to this point. It reflects the aims of this sector to create a deeper connection between producers and everyone involved in the journey of a product.
Alan explained that whether the product is a locally produced organic carrot or a multivitamin, it follows the passion supply chain. This means that the producer, supplier, wholesaler or distributor, retailer and consumer are all aware of the journey the product takes, bringing a sense of cohesion to the entire process.
“There is a oneness, an authenticity that travels from the start right through to the day that the consumer picks it up,” he
told me, enthusiasm shining through in his voice.
Angela Mc Glanaghey, manager of Simple Simons in Donegal, upholds this authenticity in her store by stocking high-quality products from local suppliers. She spoke to us about one company, Clooneen Orchard, located just 15 minutes down the road, that sells local honey, carrageen moss and dillisk.
“The owner is called John Gavigan, and he is based in Rossnowlagh in Donegal. His products are all natural with no additives. The honey and carrageen, in particular, are great sellers for us, particularly as natural flu and chesty cough remedies.”
Given how eager their customers are to shop and support local, they try to keep as many products as possible close to home. “The quality is just so much better and so much more traceable,” Angela remarked.
Not only does the passion supply chain create higher standards for products, but it also fosters community. As Tessa Badenhorst, owner of The Aloe Tree in Ennistymon, puts it: “I think “health food stores” are almost like a network of havens for like-minded people. It’s no wonder that by being attracted to organic and high-quality fresh products, you’re going to end up meeting with some very unique and interesting suppliers.”
One of these suppliers is Savage Craic, who “uses only local vegetables and locally foraged seaweeds in his small batches”. Tessa explained that getting to work closely with suppliers, such as Savage Craic, is what fosters her connection with her products:
“When you’re able to visit the beekeepers supplying your honey and the chickens giving your eggs, you feel such a connection with what’s on your shelves. And this is something that, in turn, you can confidently share with your customers. They can trust that we, as health food store owners, are completely embedded in what we do and have the same ethos in our food choices.”