Greece’s appetite for healthier, cleaner foods just keeps growing and growing
Eating organic food is a personal choice that has different meanings for each person – for some, it is an ecologically ethical choice, for others, it presents a higher likelihood of better health. At a higher cost than conventionally farmed produce, organic foods are scientifically proven to contain at least 30% lower risk of pesticide and herbicide contamination, as well as minimal to no antibiotics or growth hormones, and slightly higher levels of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
This, according to a comprehensive study conducted in 2012 and led by Crystal-Smith Sprangler from the Center for Health Policy at Stanford. Meanwhile, an extensive study published in the British Journal of Nutrition revealed the obvious and multi-ranging differences between organic and conventional production: a team led by Prof Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University found that organic crops present “statistically significant, meaningful” differences, with a range of antioxidants – between 19%-69% – being “substantially higher” in organic food.
Yet even to those who do not read medical journals in order to keep up with the science of nutrition, the difference in foods that are produced naturally and without synthetic fertilizers or other contaminants is apparent in the way a food tastes, looks, smells and most importantly, energetically feels once it’s eaten. A video released in 2015 youtube.com/watch?v=oB6fUqmyKC8 by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, showing how a family following a two-week diet of purely organic food removes all pesticides from their organisms, went viral across social media last year. It is this inherent natural wisdom that has led to the huge popularity of bio foods in Greece – with mini markets and grocery stores sprouting up in practically every neighbourhood to cater to ongoing demand.
It is impressive, if not quizzical to consider that the more pricey option of organic food has become so widely popular among Greeks during the financial crisis, yet that is very much the case. Clearly, ‘expensive’ organic food is not just for the elite, as even those struggling to save their pennies opt for the healthier option. When Viologiko Horio (Organic Village) opened in 2008, the brainchild of Dimitris Krommidas and Nikos Zacharatos became an overnight success.
Not a mini-market but a 150 square metre supermarket selling every kind of product one may wish to find at the average supermarket – from fresh, dried and frozen foodstuffs to housecleaning products and cosmetics and beyond, Viologiko Horio has now quadrupled, found in Glyfada, Voula, Ilioupoli and Stamata, with a new supermarket – the largest one yet – about to open in Nea Smyrni.
“By 2019, we plan to have opened 10 chains,” says Krommidas. “What makes us so successful is that we combine the variety and quantity found in ordinary supermarkets with the quality and service of a delicatessen. We are just like a supermarket in terms of steady prices, certified products and facilities (corridors, fully stacked shelves, trolleys), but in terms of our service standards we are like a local, friendly store,” he adds.
The ‘alternative’ supermarket’s Communications and Marketing Manager Angela Tzouvara, says that the most popular products are their basics – flour, dairy, dried pasta, rice – but that their huge variety of products from Greece and around the world offer something for everyone, while clients can also request for things that are not available to be ordered for them.
One thing is clear, as revealed not only from how well this supermarket is doing but also from the mushrooming of bio food stores at every turn – Greeks, who have strongly protested any risks of the country being touched by Monsanto or any other GMOs – are increasingly rejecting contaminated produce and celebrating the healthier options available to them.