AT a time when there are more demands than ever on the money in our pocket, food is often the first thing to fall victim to budgeting cuts, while balancing the need to keep everybody well fed.
Often, this comes with compromises in what we eat, but sisters Hannah and Rachel Dare, of Organico in Bantry, have devised a way to help their customers stay within budget without compromising on quality, taste and health, with the launch of their new Organico Basics range of organic wholefoods, household products, supplements and skincare.
Organico, founded by Hannah and Rachel’s father 30 years ago this year, has always stood for good food for the community it serves.
With the new Basics range, the sisters also hope to challenge the perception that organic wholefoods are more expensive than their supermarket counterparts.
So, where did the idea for Organico Basics come from?
“Ever since Rachel and I joined the business, we’ve spent a lot of time sourcing really good value organic food and other associated household products,” says Hannah.
“Our goal really is for our customers to not have to shop anywhere else, to supply all needs for food, supplements and everything else.”
The sisters practice what they preach, embodying a holistically organic lifestyle. But just like anyone else, this doesn’t mean there is always a want, need, or funds for foods that are at the very top end of expensive, luxury products.
“We want to make organic food affordable because we have a lot of customers that come in every week or every day on small budgets buying their basic organic wholefoods,” says Hannah.
“Organic, in mainstream shopping, is often viewed as luxury so we’re always working at presenting family budget friendly foods that are also very good quality and organic.”
Operations Manager, Russell Hardwick, came to work in Organico just after the first lockdown in 2020, moving to Bantry from Seattle in the US where he worked in a large health food shop. It was his idea to pull together and highlight basic staples for customers to easily identify.
“Russell worked in this really big co-op in Seattle and came with some great ideas for upscaling how we do things; taking what we were doing already and really focusing in and highlighting it,” Rachel explains.
The impact has been immediate, with even long-term customers discovering something new.
“It’s been really helpful for our customers. Our shop is quite big now, so it might have taken a bit of time to find these products yourself if they weren’t flagged,” Hannah says.
By putting all the products in the Basics range together and highlighting them in the shop, as well as online, Organico’s customers can easily find the products they need and at a price that is affordable and budget friendly.
It’s been such a hit with their customers that now, Hannah says: “Our problem is that we’re selling out!”
The heightened awareness – in very real terms for people – of the increased costs of living is certainly driving the popularity of the initiative. Organico Basics may well be addressing a need and a demand of its customers today, but for Hannah and Rachel, this is an initiative that is here to stay.
Whereas other mainstream supermarkets brand their budget ranges in a stigmatising way, Organico Basics stands for good, wholesome food, without compromise.
“On a fundamental level, those brands have taken the joy out of those foods by making them look that cheap; that was never going to suit us on lots of levels.
“We’re looking for something that’s not a compromise: we’re not compromising on health to fit into a budget category,” says Rachel.
“What we’ve done is selected things that are our favourite products but are also very good value.”
Of course, household budgets aren’t just for food. Other essential sundries account for a large portion of the weekly shopping budget, too. Organico Basics range currently has 120 items available with a few additional fresh and chilled items available only in store. There are plans to continually source and add more products.
“At the moment, Organico Basics includes food, household, a small range of supplements and some cosmetics. We often like to find products that don’t have a big marketing budget behind them because then, as a customer, you get more of a better product for what you’re paying,” says Hannah.
“Organico Basics is going to grow. We see so many people shopping for families, and, depending on who you are, you might have more income to spend on food so prices going up might not be a big deal for you,” says Rachel.
“The current price squeeze is really showing up that there is a big gap between people who spend a really high percentage of their income on food - that’s what they prioritise, and that’s great too - and those that can’t.”
For the sisters, it’s important to be able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, while at the same time advocating for the right for those with less to spend to have access to good, wholesome, healthy food.
“The percentage of income spent on food should be higher,” says Rachel.
“That’s not to say that it should be expensive, but it shouldn’t be as cheap as it possibly can.
“Over the years, food retail has been making our food cheaper and cheaper and encouraging people to spend as little as they possibly can. We’re not saying spend all your money on food, but where you are spending your money, pick really good value foods that are also good for you - then you get a win-win.”
Organico has always prided itself on being a food store in the community for the community. With their Basics range, Hannah and Rachel are providing that community with an alternative that’s good for their pocket as well as their diet.
“I used to get really upset when people would say health food shops were expensive, because we spend all our time getting really good quality and a really good price,” Hannah says.
By offering a well-curated range, Organico is bringing good food and affordability together with products that taste great, too.
“Hopefully, people will see that and see that they don’t have to shop at the absolute bottom, that there’s a choice there.”
Year on year in Ireland and the UK, customers are spending more on organic produce and products, reinforcing the sister’s commitment that Organico Basics is here to stay.
“The sales of organic goods are increasing every year. It goes hand in hand with concern about the environment: people are aware that organic farmers are on the side of the environment, that’s the beginning of the link for many between what they are buying and the effect that’s having on the world,” says Hannah.
“Certainly, for us, Basics is just going to grow.”