Bulk Food

The day began innocently enough. There you were, minding your own business in the natural foods grocery store, with no plan other than buying a pint of blueberries. But then, you found yourself in the bulk food aisle and, next thing you knew, you were standing in your kitchen, speechlessly staring at two-pound bags of rolled oats, dried cherries and almonds.

Fear not, fellow organic shoppers. Even if buying bulk wasn’t in your original plans, it should be. According to a study released by Portland State University’s Food Industry Leadership Center (FILC), buying organic goods in bulk helps to conserve energy and costs for suppliers, retailers and consumers alike.

The study, which was conducted in 2011 on behalf of the Bulk Is Green Council (BIG), found that consumers saved an average of 88% per year by purchasing organic edibles in bulk, as opposed to their packaged equivalents. The lower price results from lesser costs to manufacturers and suppliers by eliminating containing and shipping expenses since, according to the report, “More pallets of bulk food can be packed onto delivery trucks.” Bulk selection also allows shoppers to measure and purchase a precise amount of a given product, avoiding superfluous and unwanted quantities. As a result, consumers surveyed for the study said they were less likely to discard food bought in bulk, creating further reach for the dollars spent on it.

It’s not just about the money, though. Organic bulk buying keeps both the wallet and the environment healthy. By doing away with packaging, the study says, there are fewer materials to be tossed into the garbage and, consequently, landfills. The study alluded to such shocking statistics as, “If coffee-drinking Americans purchased all of their coffee in bulk for one year, nearly 240 million pounds of foil packaging would be saved from entering a landfill,” and, “if Americans purchased all their almonds in bulk for one year, 72 million pounds of waste would be saved from a landfill.”

It seems that those who are already buying in bulk understand that they’re doing a great thing. So why aren’t more consumers getting on board? At present, the option to purchase organic items in bulk is limited to a seemingly exclusive set of organic supermarkets and online retailers, limiting the options of those not actively seeking an alternative to packaged products.

Part of the problem is a lack of awareness among retailers, the rise of which is an integral part of BIG’s mission. Within its website, BIG devotes a page to information for retailers, illustrating the many grocer advantages of providing bulk organic goods, including “easier rotation” and “better merchandising” through food’s increased visibility. Additionally, the eco-advantages of selling in bulk will help many businesses mark another item on their socially responsible checklists.

For more information on the Bulk Is Green Council and on the FILC’s study, visit www.bulkisgreen.org.

Keep in touch with Amanda on Twitter: @Amanda_ZW

Image: yvetteSoler