Health Food, Whole Food, Organic Food and Vegan Food

sage wholefoods ext 2bs

Many people might see the title of this post as four descriptions of roughly the same market sector, if not the same thing, however I feel that clarification is needed as to why that is not the case.  ‘Health Food’ and ‘Whole Food’ (or more commonly ‘Wholefood’) are at best abstract concepts described by the shops which use the respective labels;  ‘Organic Food’ is that produced without the use of pesticides.  All three of these market sectors are omnivorous, in so far as none is vegetarian, never mind vegan, by definition.

In Britain, ‘Health Food’ is typified by the Holland & Barrett chain of stores.  However highlighting food to describe this type of store is misleading as its product range is dominated by supplements, which anyone on a healthy diet could for the most part live without.  Unintentionally they project the image that a a diet of ‘Health Food’ is not in itself that healthy!  What food they sell is usually expensively priced compared to the same that could be bought in a supermarket or even from a local independent grocer.

‘Wholefood’ shops are less likely to sell supplements, though many sell new-agey herbal remedies, in keeping with the type of ‘green’ consumer which they are targeting.  Most wholefood shops in Britain are ovo-lacto-vegetarian (though this is not the case in Continental Europe) and some of what they sell is ‘organic’, but their customer base tends to be lower income than that of ‘Health Food’ retailers.  Some are run as workers’ co-operatives, others have just adopted that ‘look’, a throwback from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

‘Organic Food’ retailers are at the top end of the market, as almost everything that they sell is expensive.  Most sell meat from ‘organically’ reared and slaughtered animals.  Whilst these retailers may project an eco-conscious image, much of the fruit that they sell is imported from half way round the world (yes, very eco-conscious).  Their consumer market is among people whose primary concern is the avoidance of ingesting trace pesticides, rather than saving the planet per se; esoteric rather than environmental consciousness.

Vegan food by definition contains no animal derivatives.  It may or may not fit into any of the above three classifications, but most of all it is ordinary, can be purchased from any supermarket and is not a defined market sector in terms of income-related demography.  It is not a specialist niche market, nor does it require great culinary skills (although there are some good vegan culinary blogs to be found); it consists of the basic foodstuffs that most omnivores take for granted and it can be as basic as sliced bread or baked beans.

An entirely vegan supermarket therefore is a plausible business idea, although it might come as a surprise to ‘health food’, ‘wholefood’ and ‘organic food’ consumers that those market sectors need not form the core of it.  Similarly with an entirely vegan restaurant or cafe, of which several exist, including those of the ‘fast food’ variety competing directly with their omnivorous equivalents.  So what is stopping us from setting up more entirely vegan food outlets?  Nothing really apart from having the capital and the will!