The inside look at Natural Grocers

By Wilson McNeary

Natural Grocers is much bigger than any other organic food spaces in Columbia, with the exception perhaps of the larger Clover's. This leaves plenty of room for options and brands you can't find elsewhere in town.

Natural Grocers, located at 400 N. Stadium Blvd. (out by the Hobby Lobby), is a brand new grocery store specializing in natural and organic foods.  Although it is part of a larger chain, with stores mostly in Colorado and other nearby western states, this is its first location in Missouri.  According to its mission statement, the grocers “sell only safe, quality products at prices the average family can afford.”

The business also claims to sell only natural and organic products; its definition of organic being USDA Certified Organic and natural being “[the products] don’t contain artificial ingredients used to color, preserve, dye, emulsify, stabilize, or solidify them.”

I was, of course, very encouraged by these statements before even setting foot in the store; however, I was rather skeptical of what the prices might be like.  After all, higher quality food is almost always more expensive than its typical grocery store counterpart, sometimes to the point of being impractical for your typical college student.

The first thing one will encounter when walking into the store is a sign on the door that says “B.Y.O.B.-Bring Your Own Bag”.  Every Natural Grocers store has eliminated the use of both paper and plastic disposable bags, though they save the boxes their products are delivered in just in case someone forgets.

Organic fruit and vegetables is a little more expensive than the regular grocery store, but Natural Grocers also runs produce specials.

The interior of the store itself is laid out similar to most typical small groceries stores: produce, dry goods, frozen foods, dairy and the like.  It is when one begins to closely look at the products on the shelves that they notice the difference:

  • There are great deals of gluten-free and vegan options in the dry goods section.
  • The frozen foods consist not only of naturally-raised meat, but also many vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
  • The dairy has a wide range of milk and yogurt that is split between many different sources, such as cow, goat, soy, and almond.

If any are familiar with the Health Market section of the local Hy-Vee stores, the types of products sold at Natural Grocers are very similar to those available at Health Market, though Natural Grocers has a much wider selection. Natural Grocers also has a very extensive vitamin and nutritional supplement section.

With raspberries on sale for $2.49 and an avacado on sale for $1, these three items rang up for under $10. Natural Grocers offers "Hot Line" items every week.

During my trip to this store, I was in need of a few basic groceries; I bought 2 bags of Beanitos chips (which I had never eaten before, but turned out to be delicious), 3 Annie Chun’s noodle bowls, 3 cups of Cascade Fresh yogurt, and 1 box of Nature’s Path organic toaster pastries and managed to get out of the store without paying over $20.  I found this to be a very reasonable price considering the quality of food I was buying.

In summary, I was very impressed with the extensive selection in Natural Grocers, as well as the way they seem to put their morals into their business practices.  Most of all, however, I was impressed with the prices in the store.  Though there may be some initial sticker shock for those accustomed to living off of Bagel Bites and other cheap microwavables in their dorm, I feel that the prices are reasonable enough that the average college student could go to Natural Grocers on a semi-regular basis and sneak at least a little bit of healthy, natural food into their diet.  I certainly won’t be able to do absolutely all of my grocery shopping there, but it’s certainly a start for those wishing to go beyond the Health Market at Hy-Vee.

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For more info on Natural Grocers’ business practices and products, visit the website: http://www.naturalgrocers.com.

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