Across Western Canada by Health Food Store (Store Reviews) – Part Two: BC

In part one, I reviewed health food stores from Ontario to Alberta, based mainly on my recent cross-country trip. I visited over 25 different shops, and it is my hope that my own experiences about what you might find in each will help others. Today I discuss some of the gems and not-so-wonderful natural food stores I found in British Columbia. One of the interesting things I found about products in BC was that many listed what percentage of their ingredients were organic, which was a huge help for me in looking for 100% organic foods. For this province, I’m giving up the strict east-to-west order and working through the stores by broader geographic area.

Askew’s Foods (Salmon Arm and others)

A regular grocery store with decent amounts of natural and organic foods. While I can’t say that I am able to eat their breads, chocolate, or meats due to lack of organic foods, the large selection of organic and vegan dry goods, produce, and dairy was nice.

Simply Delicious Natural & Gourmet Grocer (Vernon)

This store did not live up to hopes. Most of the food was not organic and was in bulk barrels. There was no organic meat and very little organic produce. The store did have personal care, freezer, and cleaning sections, along with some dry goods, but there was very little in the store that I could eat, with my chemical restrictions.

Nature’s Fare Market (Vernon, and others)

About one block from Simply Delicious was Nature’s Fare Market. Compared to the first store, this one was a treasure trove. Not only did it have a large produce and dairy section, but it also had fridge and freezer sections, aisles and aisles of dry goods, personal care and cleaning products, a deli and hot foods section, bulk teas, spices, and herbs, some “close to organic” breads, and so much more. The organic chicken was pricey though.

Granville Island Public Market (Vancouver)

Small number of organic options available, but excellent selection overall of local and worldwide foods.

A Bread Affair Organic Bakery (Granville Island, outside the market, in Vancouver)

Not actually 100% organic for the majority of their products. I did find two 100% organic breads. One bread I thought was 100% organic I was informed actually had one additional ingredient on it that wasn’t listed on the package, which made it not organic.

The next three shops were found on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, within a two-block stretch. There was one other store that advertised organic breads, but it was not open at the time of my visit.

Eternal Abundance (Vancouver)

Sells organic spices, organic teas, and a decent selection of produce, as well as books and ready-made items, along with their cafe. They claim that the entire store/cafe is vegan, gluten free, and organic. I had to be careful of some added flavours, but for the most part it lived up to expectations. Not a big store, but a good one.

Sweet Cherubim (Vancouver)

This natural food store and restaurant is a mid- to large-sized combination ethnic/eastern foods store and health food store, as well as a bakery and deli-type restaurant (but without the cold cuts and sandwiches). In the store side, they have a produce section, fridge and freezer sections, a small amount of meat, a bakery section, a large personal care section, and a herbal section. Many of the non-produce items are not 100% organic, and the herbal section was similarly split. In the restaurant side, I found nothing that was 100% organic, but there were plenty of vegan options. Overall a bit disappointing from an organic perspective, but they don’t really claim to be organic. They did have a great selection of items, though they may have suffered a bit by trying to be too many different things to too many people.

Choices Market (Vancouver)

A large natural foods grocery store. Their extensive produce section was fully organic, and they had a few organic dairy options, as well as some organic dry goods. They sold a number of items from producers who sell at the Granville market, not to mention other foods that I had seen elsewhere, so from an organic perspective I wasn’t overly excited, though there was a lot of selection there. I may have been a bit jaded or spoiled by the selections I have found in other amazing health food stores I’d visited recently. It does appear that with their large selection anyone with any kind of “health food”-type diet restriction would find things here, as they had organic, lactose free, gluten free, and vegan choices in all of the major categories covered by major grocery store chains – even lactose-free parmesan cheese and bulk foods (only partially organic). One down side is that their cleaning aisle is in amongst other food sections, so visiting those food aisles involves braving the most fragrant areas of the store.

The Community Farm Store (Duncan)

Amazing quantity of organic foods, including refrigerated, produce, and meats, as well as dry goods, spices, pet, and cleaning. Sells soup bones, has a food/juice bar, even sells fair trade crafts and natural fibre clothing, but only in a minor sense. Also does reusable food containers with tare weights. Really big store that doesn’t seem like a big store as you walk through it because it’s split between rooms. I would consider moving to Duncan for this store alone – it was my favourite of the entire trip.

Nesvog Meats and Sausage Company (Nanaimo)

Had only a single organic meat when I went. Mostly a regular (but enormous) butcher and ethnic food market.

Green Soul Organics

Organic grains and legumes. Nice selection of organic teas and apothecary section. Has some produce, but not specifically labelled organic. Also has a food bar which serves smoothies, juices, and vegan dishes (closes at 4 pm), but these are not specifically called out as organic either, leaving me feeling a bit confused. I feel like if they’re going to call themselves organic they should promote what in store is organic better. Small but useful selection of day-to-day items.

 Salt Spring Island has an enormous organic food presence – I couldn’t hope to do justice to all of it in only a single day’s trip. Here were some shops I found:

Salt Spring Ganges Market (Salt Spring Island, Ganges)

The Ganges Saturday market has an array of local products and produce, ranging from jams and jellies to produce (both organic and not), bread, cheeses, vegan and organic crackers and confections, fudge, French pastries, mini donuts, and organic, applejuice-based kefir (delicious!).

Salt Spring Natureworks (Salt Spring Island, Ganges)

On Lower Ganges Rd., this is a small-to-middle-sized store with its own house grain brand, bulk organic grains, legumes, tea, and herbals, as well as a good supply of organic and pastured/antibiotic free meats of multiple varieties, lots of local products, a good-sized vegetable and fruit section, and even a book room.

The Country Grocer (Salt Spring Island, Ganges, though also available elsewhere)

Down the road toward the Vesuvius ferry to Crofton, this regular grocery store also has a larger-than-normal organic section, and local produce. More importantly, it has bathrooms available, unlike the shops down by the market.

Finally, Fulford Harbour, near the south end of Salt Spring Island, has only a few stores, including an “organic bakery.” Not actually a bakery, the cafe features a seating area, book lounge, and vegan and organic menu. While you will find great staple items like vegan butters and cheeses for sale, there is not much menu transparency (ingredient lists), so be cautious if you have bad allergies.

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