Every day, millions of pieces of trash are thrown away and tons of food is wasted. Now more than ever, Camino is ready to take part in climate action and try to reduce its environmental footprint. We care about our planet and want to eliminate as much food packaging as possible.
We know that many of you already want to find our products in the bulk food section of your favourite stores. Together we can make a difference by making more environmentally responsible choices while strengthening our social impact. We are proud to support the zero waste movement and bring you more bulk alternatives!
Today, we invite you to learn more about this movement by meeting three zero-waste grocery stores that inspire us on a daily basis: NousRire (a buying group with several pick-up locations in Quebec), Bidon Rempli (a grocery store in Lévis, QC) and NU Grocery (grocery stores in Ottawa, ON).
Camino: Is it possible to buy all my groceries in bulk in your store?
NousRire: No, but it is possible to do most of your grocery shopping in zero waste style! We specialize in low-perishability products, so we don’t keep anything fresh. However, we recommend that you complete your order with a basket of fresh, organic and local vegetables from our partner, the Family Farmers Network.
Bidon Rempli: For people who cook a lot and often, and for those who are vegetarian/vegan, it is possible to do all your groceries in bulk at our store. However, we estimate that it is easy to do 80% of your groceries with us, and the remaining 20% in a conventional grocery store. We offer mostly dry (basic) products that can be processed, but our store is growing and we are increasingly carrying more diverse products.
NU Grocery: It is absolutely possible to do all your shopping at NU Grocery! We have an extensive selection of products in a wide spectrum of categories. Whether you are looking for everyday food items, grab-and-go items, frozen foods, unique ingredients for new recipes, personal care products or cleaning products, we have it!
Camino: How do you choose the products you offer?
NousRire: First and foremost, based on what our community wants! We regularly carry out surveys on this topic (on our social networks and in our monthly newsletters), and then discuss the possibilities among the participants’ requests according to our values. We then integrate into our store those products for which we have transparency on the entire supply chain and which meet our eco- and social responsibility criteria. For example, organic and fair-trade certification, sustainable cultivation, and minimizing middlemen. I would say that our most important criteria for future products is the number of kilometres travelled from field to plate.
Bidon Rempli: Several criteria guide our choices. Being a zero waste grocery store, we choose products sold in large format to reduce over-packaging or through supplies that we call zero waste. We also wish to prioritize the environment in its entirety by using production methods that respect living beings by opting for organic and fair-trade products when this choice is available and accessible. Furthermore, we believe in the importance of supporting short distances for economic, social and ecological reasons, which is why we have nearly 50 local partners.
NU Grocery: When we are looking at adding a new item to our stores, there are a number of things that we consider including: does it meet the needs of our customers, is it a product we believe in, can it be sourced locally (so that we can support other small businesses), can the amount of packaging for that item be reduced or eliminated. The final step involves testing by the NU team to ensure it is something that we can all proudly stand behind.
Camino: What is the most unusual ingredient you offer in bulk?
NousRire: We offer a few products that are not well known, and so worth discovering! For example, our wild seaweed flakes! We also offer Chaga, a wild mushroom very rich in antioxidants. This one is picked in full awareness of the ecological dynamics in the forests of the Upper Laurentians.
Bidon Rempli: Our pure vanilla extract is unusual because, in addition to being made in Quebec and available in bulk, it meets our selection criteria. Colibri Vanille, the company behind this vanilla extract, takes social and ecological concerns to heart, making it a processor of choice for our grocery store.
NU Grocery: We have a large variety of unique items that aren’t often found without packaging such as vitamins, kettle chips, dulse, Icelandic yogurt, vegan Jamaican patties, lasagna noodles, miso paste, deodorant… We are exceptionally proud of the continuously growing selection of products that we carry.
Camino: How did the pandemic force you to revise your offer?
NousRire: The pandemic has forced us to pre-package food in reusable jars and compostable bags, as our old system involved too much close contact between people. We are really eager to launch our new bulk system that meets sanitary standards. We also need to adapt to packaging standards, as our operation does not fit into any existing supply style.
Bidon Rempli: The pandemic did not change our offering, while consumer perception of local, organic and fair-trade products is increasingly favourable. In the last year or so, we have added online grocery shopping, with drop-off points to make bulk and zero waste more accessible to the region’s population and we continue to improve this.
NU Grocery: We are extremely proud of the very high standards we hold for cleanliness on a regular basis, so there is very little that has changed at our stores as a result of the pandemic. With respect to products that we offer, we worked with local companies to have cloth masks and hand sanitizer that can be purchased in bulk available.
Camino: Other than reduced packaging, what is the biggest benefit of buying in bulk with you?
NousRire: The certainty of supporting a company that puts the well-being of the planet and humans first and infuses joy into the products it offers! Our products are not only organic and plastic-free but also grown with the greatest respect for ecosystems. In addition, we also pay special attention to respecting the people in the entire supply chain, including the workers who grow our food.
Bidon Rempli: Many practices are beneficial to the environment, including the reduction of packaging, single-use products, food waste and over-consumption, but we also believe that moving towards a healthy and sustainable food system offers undeniable long-term benefits. We also want to make it easier for consumers to make choices by ensuring the safety of products through our proximity to our artisan producers, processors and distributors.
NU Grocery: In making the choice to shop in bulk you are sending less packaging to landfill, you’re limiting the chance of food waste at home through purchasing only what you need, you can stretch your monthly budget further by only purchasing the amounts you actually need, and, particularly with NU Grocery, you are helping to support many local businesses around Ottawa which is so important during the pandemic.
So, will 2021 be the year you switch to buying in bulk?
We know that habits are not easy to change. But whatever you decide to do, take a look at the selection of products available from these three agents of change. Guaranteed inspiration!
You can also find our products in bulk formats in several natural health food stores across the country that have a bulk bin section. If your favourite store doesn’t yet have our products in its bulk section, let us know and we will be happy to follow up with them.
Many thanks to: