It’s raining organic
THE HINDU | JANUARY 13, 2013
Trends: With a growing awareness of the benefits of making organic a way of life, most localities in Bangalore now boast an organic store, sometimes even more than one, finds Bhumika K.
It’s there in your vegetables, it’s there in your spices, your tea, even in your sambar powder. It’s in your jam, dal, millet-bread, atta…it’s in your clothes too. But more than ever it’s on your mind. And it’s a word called ‘organic’ that’s becoming a whole new way of life — of benefitting from going back to your roots.
Bangalore is seeing a quick sprouting of organic stores, not just in its large shopping hubs, but also in smaller localities and neighbourhoods. A lot more people seem to be catching on to the organic mantra each day, and as word spreads, and demand increases, there’s a store at an arm’s reach for most people in the city. In late 2012, International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) stated that Bangalore had 68 retail shops selling organic produce — including dedicated outlets as well as those which have sizeable space earmarked for organic produce. See any supermarket and you will be sure to find a section dedicated to organic. Even online stores have a separate section of organic products.
While earlier, people only had a Namdhari’s Fresh to turn to for organic veggies, now a lot more effort is going into making daily living as natural and therefore as healthy as possible, turning life safe and chemical-free, leaving a minimal carbon footprint, about caring for the earth that gives you so much. So much so that most daily usage products are turning organic — from milk and meat, to washing powders and floor cleaners. Smart entrepreneurs are using organic ingredients to make readymade food mixes — an organic imagination has taken wing and there’s no end to creatively exploring possibilities of what comes out of the organic magic-bag.
“A lot more people are making organic a part of their routine — they know it’s good for them and the planet,” confirms Ami Patel, category head-home, Mother Earth. At their Domlur store, where they have stocked organic products since 2009, food, specially staples, are pretty popular. “Some regular clientele buy their monthly groceries from us, while many others look for specifics.” They have a range of around 200 food products, but they have around 100 non-food products, including house cleaning and personal care items like lotions and shampoos. It’s a slowly, but steadily catching up trend. Vijay Grover, co-founder of Bangalore Organic Store, talks of how they have now diversified into organic clothing, specially innerwear. “People with allergies seem to prefer organic clothing. We have also begun to stock t-shirts,” he says. They initially set up an online-only store. But the demand was such that they had to open up a retail nook as well in Cox Town.
“We realised there is a demand here in Bangalore, among the IT crowd. The younger generation, specially pregnant women and young mothers, are willing to spend on organic products. So we concentrated a lot on baby food and oatmeal,” says Grover. He also points to another trend in the organic market: “People are willing to pay more for branded products because they are certified organic, rather than unbranded, though we source from trusted growers.” People are also suspicious of adulteration in cooking oils, and so cold-pressed organic cooking oils have caught people’s imagination, he offers. A lot of new customers come looking for organic foods, based on a dietician’s recommendations.
Ridhima Peravali, who works for a non-profit organisation, has been in Bangalore two years. She used organic products even while she lived in the U.S.A for three years. “Earlier I shopped at Era Organics near my home in Dollar’s Colony and now I shop at Buffalo Back in Malleswaram, which is on my way back from my workplace. The only thing I find difficult to find on a consistent basis here in India is organic vegetables. They are available only select days a week, and there is actually a queue for them!” Her parents come from an agricultural family in Bihar and they were aware of what kind of pesticides go into crops; she also buys organic sugar because it’s sulphur-free. “Moreover, in India, organic products cost only 1.5 times more than non-organic, while in the West, prices are almost thrice as much.”
The reasons for consumers to go organic may be many. Manjunath Pankkaparambil, owner of Lumiere, an organic restaurant and store in Marathahalli, gives credit to Aamir Khan’s episode on organic food in the Satyameva Jayate TV series, as well as events like BioFach organic exhibitions, in raising consumer awareness about the advantages of consuming organic. “It is not just fashionable to be organic, people are understanding it.” There are many newcomers each day at his store who come on friends’ recommendations. Manjunath says a lot of older customers have the time to understand the concept of organic and have tasted the goodness of it before. Apart from fresh vegetables grown on their own organic farm, Lumiere also sells organic chicken and eggs from their organic poultry farm. They also take orders online — about 50 people order over the weekend.
The Jaivik Krishik Society runs perhaps what is one of the oldest outlets in the city selling organic (since 2006) — surprisingly, it’s a state-run enterprise. It’s an offspring of the State’s horticulture department, with a supply network of over 300 farmers. It also has the advantageous location of being in Lal Bagh. Harish, senior manager at the Jaivik Mall, says their footfalls total 50 every day, mostly from the early morning walkers in the park. “We have a whole variety of rice, wheat, dals, millets and pulses grown all over Karnataka. On Friday and Saturday we have vegetables too. Because it’s grown locally and we purchase directly from farmers, our products are priced much lesser than other branded ones. Yet, new customers ask us why organic is priced so high. But they are convinced when we tell them about the way yield drops when a farmer starts organic cultivation, and how much more effort it takes to raise such a crop.”