News for Retailers

Ireland celebrates VAT victory

Ireland’s health food retailers and their customers are celebrating victory in the fight to stop VAT being imposed on supplements.

The move, which was to have come into force today (March 1), was unexpectedly deferred as a petition signed by 75,000 people was presented to the Irish Parliament and Revenue offices.

The threat to add 23% VAT to supplements has now been put off until November to allow the Government to legislate an acceptable alternative.

Read the full story here...

It’s BOOM time! Enter the Best of Organic Market awards 2019

Entries for the UK’s only organic food and drink awards are now open. Run by Soil Association Certification, the Best of Organic Market (BOOM) awards are a chance to celebrate the very best of organic food and drink.

Now in their third year, the awards are open to all organic producers and businesses across a wide range of categories covering product, outlet, sustainability initiatives and people. Food and drink categories, judged blind by an expert panel purely on taste and quality, include:

  • Categories for fresh produce, dairy, bakery, meat, fish and poultry
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
  • Baby and children’s products
  • Box scheme, independent retailer and supermarket
  • New categories for 2019 include organic specialist diet and best organic snack
  • A further award will celebrate the organic businesses leading the way in developing new and environmentally sustainable packaging solutions.

Click here to enter.

Bold new look for Suma

Suma is introducing a new look for the business as a whole, including its fleet of 22 trucks, and range of over 1,000 own-brand products.

Sheree Hatton, one of Suma's worker members who has overseen the development of the new brand, said: "The world is changing. There is a growing interest in meat-free diets and fairer business practices, things that have been at our heart for over forty years. Suma's never been more of the moment, and our new look will allow us to speak in a more urgent voice on the things that matter."

The business is the largest co-op of its kind in Europe. Based in West Yorkshire with a London depot, it has been at the forefront of the wholefood market for decades, and continues to offer industry 'firsts', from recycled toilet roll to vegan convenience foods.

Nathalie Spencer, who also led the rebrand, added: "The way we look is changing. But what we stand for is staying the same. We want our new look to be as bold as our people and as inspiring as our customers. It will help our products stand out and direct sales to our customers.

"We're not doing it all in one go. Starting with our trucks and tomatoes, over the next two years we'll be changing all of Suma's style to create a more consistent and unified brand."

Veganuary going on tour of health food stores in January 2019

This January, Veganuary is working alongside the NAHS (National Association of Health Stores). Veganuary want to make the independent health retailer a one stop shop for new vegans – an environment where great vegan food meets inspiring and influential expert information. They'll be visiting local, independent health food stores across the UK, and taking some of their favourite foodie brands along for the ride.

The "Veganuary Road Trip" will be visiting independent health food shops throughout January, with the aim of encouraging Veganuary 2019 participants to visit their local health food store. As well as an array of delicious free samples, they'll also be supplying each of the chosen stores with an essential kit to help entry-level vegans navigate around their stores. This will include vegan shopping swaps and essential tips for going vegan, with advice on topics including nutrition, meal plans and supplements. The chosen health stores will then help guide each customer through a range of their products to set them up for Veganuary success.

The health stores taking part in the tour will stock all five of Veganuary's brand partners: Pulsin, Tideford, Follow Your Heart, Booja Booja and One Planet Pizza, with sampling support.

"The NAHS has long championed the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and we are delighted to help promote and support Veganuary. Our member store owners and staff (many of whom are already vegan veterans) look forward to helping participants transition to a new, healthier lifestyle in 2019,” says NAHS Chairman Gary Trickett.

EFSA launches interactive tool

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched an interactive tool that allows nutritionists and other health professionals to make quick and easy calculations using EFSA's dietary reference values.

The DRV Finder searches by population group or nutrient, allowing users to extract and combine the precise information they need from the 32 opinions on DRVs that EFSA has published in recent years.

The opinions contain DRVs for water, fats, carbohydrates and dietary fibre, protein, energy, as well as 14 vitamins and 13 minerals.

Agnès de Sesmaisons Lecarré, from EFSA's Nutrition Unit, said: "Health professionals and authorities use DRVs to help consumers make healthy food choices. We hope they will find our DRV Finder an invaluable tool in carrying out this essential work."

Planet Organic on the expansion trail

When Scottish private equity firm Inverleith took a controlling stake in London’s seven-store health food chain Planet Organic it said it aimed to double the number of stores over the next five years.

In an “interesting time of change for the high street”, Inverleith Chairman Ben Thomson identified consumer demand for more community-based shopping and a holistic, healthy lifestyle.

We spoke to Planet Organic’s Buying Director Al Overton who confirms: “We are looking to open two or three stores a year for the next five years.

“Inverleith think that, with changing high streets and increased interest in health and wellness, there is opportunity for an experience- and service-led retailer operating within the wellness space.”

But with uncertain future trading proving “a challenge” and a dearth of organic land under cultivation in the UK, the business may become ever more reliant on imports.

“Certainly interest in health will grow and grow, and I hope organic grows with it,” he adds. Although supermarkets tend to see organic as premium, Overton does not believe organic food in season should command a premium price, especially as the market grows.

Planet Organic’s adherence to minimum product standards of no artificial or GM ingredients, “embedded in all departments”, requires specialist knowledge to analyse the ingredients lists. “Health and beauty are growing strongly within the business, both in terms of clean labels but also customers looking for less packaged or plastic-free options,” he says.

Community shopping is driven by “the opposite of technology” – the store teams work closely with community groups, local clubs and schools and consider themselves part of the community in which they operate.

“If all you are is a shop selling the same stuff that you can easily get elsewhere then your days are numbered,” observes Overton. “But people will always go to a store for an experience, or for the service, or just to hang out and be part [of a community].

“Our focus is on uniqueness of the product range, speed of innovation, service and in-store experience.”

Health Food Institute is 40...

The Health Food Institute’s Annual Event for 2019 is moving from its usual February date to Thursday June 27 to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The big bash takes place at the Museum of Brands in London.

...And so is the bran tub

The Bran Tub at Petersfield, founded by Peter and Anna Roberts in 1978, has been celebrating its fortieth as an independent, family-owned health store. It’s now owned by adventurer Gillian Silverthorn who recently trekked to Everest base camp to raise money for Save The Rhino and Animals Asia.

Natural health hat-trick

Julie Goodwin’s Natural Health store at Welwyn Garden City won no less than three awards at the WGC Business Improvement District (BID) Awards – Best Independent Retailer, Friendliest Staff and Most Involved in the Community.

Pictured L-R are Paul Albertson, Julie, Katrin Rejahl and Teresa Colborne.

Boost for HFI Protocol following GP video

Viridian Nutrition has continued its mission to partner the UK’s GPs with their local health food stores. And in response, health food stores are signing up to the Health Food Institute’s retailer protocol to add weight to their professional status.

A video made by the College of Medicine and ITN Productions, released in November, gives a siren call to GPs that they should point patients to independent health food stores in the interests of healthy nutrition.

Almost 300 stores have signed the HFI Protocol, used when advising customers on the remedies available in-store. Around 50 have signed since the video was released with more coming into the HFI office daily, says HFI council member Cheryl Thallon, Viridian’s MD.

Read the full story here...

NAHS needs you

The NAHS is looking for health store volunteers to join the committee which meets four times a year in Birmingham. Anyone interested should contact NAHS Administrator Avril McCracken on 01875 341408, e-mail

THS acquisition means ‘more choice for retailers’

Two of the UK’s national wholesalers now have the same boss. John Weaver of Tree of Life has been named CEO of The Health Store following the acquisition by Health Made Easy and now runs both companies.

But he assured Better Retailing Magazine that both wholesalers will be operated independently. Between them, THS and ToL have annual sales of around £90m.

“We do not intend to change any of our brands, only improve them,” he said. “The Health Store has maintained its position as one of the leading suppliers in its category, and we do not want to change this.

“Instead, we want to make sure we do our best to facilitate growth, through providing customers with more choice while supporting product innovation to meet changing consumer habits in the UK.”

Retailers will find the ranges extended rather than consolidated, such as exclusive brands, chilled and frozen, as well as a greater range from which to optimise margins.

“The sites and wholesale brands will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future, as will their management teams,” he added.

Weaver becomes CEO of THS as a main Health Made Easy shareholder. Tim Ryan remains as MD of THS with Paul Rideout Sales Director and Julian Wright Buying Director.

THS joins Higher Nature and Peppersmith alongside ToL in the Health Made Easy group.

Ireland reels under new health tax

Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners introduce a new 23% VAT rate for all food supplements from March 1.

This means that vitamins, minerals, probiotics and fish oils will be subject to the 23% rate and will undermine the health of Irish people who rely on food supplements to maintain their health.

Health Stores Ireland and the Irish Health Trade Association have organised a petition ( opposing the tax on health which has already attracted thousands of signatures.

A horrified Irish health food industry believes the cynical new tax will badly affect the following groups:

  • People who rely on food supplements, such as iron, to address diet deficiencies.
  • People who take food supplements to reduce the risk factors of diseases, such as heart disease.
  • People who take food supplements to enable their body to function at a normal level and maintain a good standard of health.

“To put such a huge tax on products that have a positive impact on people’s health makes no sense, and goes against the Government’s own Healthy Ireland initiative,” says Health Stores Ireland.

The decision will also have a huge impact on sales for health stores and pharmacies across the country.

“For the past 40 years, there has been a 0% VAT rate on food supplements. An immediate 23% increase is unprecedented and could put dozens of health stores out of business and cause hundreds of jobs to be lost,” adds Health Stores Ireland.

It's BOOM time!

The Soil Association’s prestigious Best of Organic Market (BOOM) awards return in 2019.

Entries for the UK’s only organic food and drink awards will open on January 7 – and independent retailers are invited to pitch in.

Run by the Soil Association, the BOOM awards are a chance to celebrate the very best of organic food, drink, hospitality and innovation, as well as the pioneers shaping a more sustainable food system and providing food as it should be.

Last seen in 2017, the awards celebrate what’s currently happening in the market, as well as the innovators shaping the future of food and farming, sponsored by Abel & Cole.

Read the full story here...

Vitality Expo – bigger and better for 2019

The inaugural Vitality Expo in Dublin in September was a huge hit – that’s the industry view following rave reviews from Ireland’s independent health stores.

Health Stores Ireland, which endorses and supports the show, expects the show to be even bigger in 2019 and will ramp up its awards programme for retailers which is sponsored by Better Retailing Magazine.

Vitality is also an annual gathering for the wider sector, a networking opportunity for all stakeholders and a showcase for the health food retail sector with a valuable national media partnership.

See our Spring 2019 issue for show dates and registration, as well as entry details for the retailer awards.

Read more news in the latest issue of Better Retailing Magazine

Read news stories from previous issues of Better Retailing Magazine here