I am excited to share a guest blog post with you today. Kareema Batal and I met last week at her store, Urban Organics. We shared some great conversation and I got to tour the store and talk about what great plans they have going forward.
I will be interviewing Kareema on Facebook Live in the near future...stay tuned!
I am so thrilled to be able to share some of my thoughts and experiences today through The Meals Maven blog. Stacy and I met quite recently and I, for one, am so happy that we did! We shared some brief conversations with each other about sugar, snacks, energy, and how complicated food has become for people. I wanted to speak about those issues from a retailer's perspective. But first, let me tell you a bit about me and us.
My partner and I own and operate Urban Organics Market in Sherwood Park. Urban Organics is a market dedicated to providing clean products to our community. We believe we are our customers' trusted source for pure living and we always strive to stay true to that. My role is shopping, really. Which is the best job on the planet! I graduated in 2014 from the Nutrition and Food Science program at the University of Alberta. I dabbled in a bit of everything in my undergrad and various jobs I've held over the years, but one very important skill set that I developed through all of it was an eye for quality and an understanding of manufacturing. Which is why I'm the product guru at Urban Organics and why I think we as a retailer are best equipped to source and provide the best quality products for our customers.
Let's talk about sugar. If you come to Urban Organics today, you won't find a salad dressing, a pasta sauce, or a decent selection of cooking sauces on our shelves. The reason for that is I simply can't find a product I'd recommend to you. Other markets, especially organic ones, are stocked to the brim with three, maybe four or more delicious options in these three categories. What's the deal? The deal is sugar. From a purely objective point of view, I completely understand the need for sugar in these products. If you are a company making organic or "natural" salad dressings for the market, you want to a) avoid chemical preservatives because consumers don't want that anymore, and b) want to have an extended shelf life to be able to produce in large volumes and keep stock for months and months. Remember - products need to cross borders, travel long distances on trucks, and wait in distribution warehouses before they get to the supermarket shelf with yet enough shelf life for the consumer to be comfortable buying it and storing it their fridge until fully consumed. The best option, more often than not, to achieve all of that is to use sugar. From a nutritional stand point, however, that still doesn't sit well with me.
There are a plethora of websites, books, research publications, and organizations dedicated to educating consumers on the danger of sugar to our health, so I won't bore you with the details, as I'm sure you've heard it all before. One thing I do like to point out to people, which is one of the main reasons I try to avoid products with - what I believe - unnecessary added sugar, is the danger of sweetness addiction. Take a moment and think of all the foods you consumed today - how many of those foods were SWEET? I bet MOST of what you consumed is sweet. The introduction of packaged foods into our diets introduced our bodies to sugar, far too much of it. We have now become accustomed to the taste of sweet, we crave it, and we find a hard time eating and accepting foods that are not sweet. That is a powerful change in our biology and one that we should not be indulging or encouraging.
For that reason, and many others, I call added sugar in these products unnecessary and I try my best to avoid recommending products with unnecessary added sugar. I ALWAYS try to encourage people to make their own using some of our organic oils, fresh organic herbs and spices from Harmonic Arts, and fresh organic produce. But, I do understand that people are busy. We all lead very busy lives and we often need the convenience of ready made foods. So what's the solution?
I think we have an idea. We'd like to see these products made locally. Why can't we make salad dressings, cooking sauces, and delicious pasta sauces right here in Edmonton from organic ingredients? I get butterflies in my stomach when I bring this up. We have NO REASON to import such basic items that are full of sugar. We can make it ourselves, in small batches, conveniently packed for the folks on the go, and that are not on our shelves for two years. Wouldn't that be great? I'll leave you with that thought because I'm hoping one of you would feel inspired or maybe encouraged to get into the food making business. Our doors all always open to local producers so don't hesitate to get in touch; we'd LOVE to hear from you!