With many talks around green living and sustainability, I am delighted to kick off SOTG food topic this year on how to tackle waste.
I had the opportunity to chat with Sarah Widjaja, the Franchise Partner of The Source Bulk Foods at Great Wall City in Central Singapore. The store is not huge but plenty of exciting stuff waiting for health and fitness enthusiast; while at the same time offer choice to reduce waste and use no plastic.
The Source Bulk Foods is the ‘local organic, natural health and bulk food store in the fight against waste’. In a nutshell, if you haven’t heard about it or haven’t been to the organic store, it’s basically stock up your healthy products in bins without the usual plastic packaging like the ordinary supermarket.
In her casual black ‘zero-waste’ T-shirt, she spoke confidently about her new store.
What’s driven you to open this health store?
Firstly, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I have a health issue that requires a certain food dietary requirement and it is inconvenient to source in Singapore. In Australia, I used to stock up a lot whenever I was there visiting family.
Was that how you discovered The Source Bulk Foods?
Yes, The Source Bulk Foods began in Australia back in 2012. The Founders (Paul & Emma) started this healthy journey in Byron Bay. Now the largest specialised bulk food in Australia with over 50 shops and expanding internationally as we speak. Singapore’s first store is in Cluney Court. And now, the second store in Great Wall City which I’m the co-founder opened in Dec 2019. A spoiler alert for you – our Raffles store is opening soon around April/May with an ‘express grab & go concept’.
Where are the products being sourced?
Most of the products being transported from Australia. Some sourced locally in Australia and some come from other countries across continents through import. But they all got transported into Singapore. At the moment, 50% of our supplier committed to zero plastic packagings.
Which brings to the sustainable question of carbon footprint.
Yes, they are being sourced from far away location. We are looking into sourcing closer and transport directly into Singapore, for example, certain products from Indonesia but they come with challenges for us to nail and solve firsthand before we can incorporate into the current business process.
Till now, most products come from Australia to Singapore including those imported into Australia.
Tell me more about the store concept and what it entails?
There are 400 bins for customers to shop and about 500 plus products overall. The Source Bulk Foods focus on plastic-free and zero waste. At Great Wall City, our store is located within close proximity to grocery supermarkets (Cool Storage and Meidi-Ya). Therefore, we highly encourage customers to shop sustainably whereby they can purchase fresh materials at the nearby supermarkets and then buy dry/raw ingredients at our shop when they come to Great Wall City.
Speaking of cooking and grocery shopping, how’s the take-up and trend (if any) have you seen so far in Singapore?
We’ve seen (from the other store on the island), a slowly changing habit such as maids coming into the shop to purchase. Customers come to our shop even for a little quantity such as a teaspoon.
Since opening, what’s has been popular in the store?
The most popular products are snacks or grab & go items such as a variety of chocolates and confectionery. Majority of our products are dry and raw but we also stock part or full finished products such as healthy protein balls, granolas, kombucha drink (outsourced from a vendor in Singapore), nut butter, extra virgin olive oil, tamari, apple cider household detergents, coffee beans (which can be grinded using our machine), hygiene products (also for pet) and other waste-free living items (reusable water bottle, stainless steel straw, Stasher bag, or reusable silicone food bag).
On the lid of the bin, we put details and label (including the original country where product is sourced) – some were handwritten such as for gluten-free and/or vegan products. Customers love the handwritten labels which usually associated with artisan-produced, especially our in-store made items such as nut butter.
How can your store ensure the freshness of the products?
The following are our practised at all time to ensure freshness.
- Low Temperature: Our store’s temperature is lower than 20 degrees Celcius to prevent the unnecessary growth of microorganisms.
- Hygiene Education: Our staff available on the floor to educate customer when shopping. For example, ensuring the lid closed properly and not touching the items on scoop when sampling (instead item need to be poured on hand).
- Top-up: Bins are filled in as item finish (or nearly finish) after being firstly washed. Regular top-up for those popular products as required based on demand.
- Keeping a track record of when the bin is filled. While expiry date is noted on the bin, customers may enquire when each bin is filled.
How to be ‘zero-waste’ and green to the environment?
It’s about making certain choices in day-to-day life. I bring a container to lunch, eco-bag for shopping, water bottle and own coffee cup for a refill. If you shop here, you certainly be ‘zero-waste’ (as you purchase based on the quantity you require) and use no plastic.
What’s next agenda or focus in 2020? What can customers look forward to?
We want to develop a community base where we invite customers to join as a member (you can do this easily at the counter) and get a discount for the next purchase. We plan to cultivate more community spirit and provide knowledge-sharing events. More in my the pipeline, such as a partnership with fitness, health and wellness centres around the area so our member can benefit further.
How To Shop
Grab paper bag provided (or bring your own container/jar), write down the product code or label (or weigh empty container/jar first), scoop (any quantity you desire), weigh at counter and finally, make payment.
You could also order online.
Products In Store
Below are selected gourmet and superfood items available in the store (yes, I was like a kid in a candy store). They are items which I’ve consumed before through living abroad and occasionally bring home with me when I travelled. Despite being flown from far away location (hence can hardly fully tick the box of sustainability), I am thrilled that I can conveniently purchase at The Source Bulk Foods as little or as big. Also listed are those I’ve found very interesting, worth noting to sample, something rare or unusual for this island – they not only come with great health benefits but kind to environment.
Australian native products (other than macadamia nut and oil)
- Lemon Myrtle detergent and hygiene products: the citrusy lemon-herb smell of Australian shrub.
- Savoury Bush Dukkah spice mix: with Pepperleaf and Lemon Myrtle
- Outback Bush Curry spice mix: with Wattle Seed, Anise Myrtle and Mountain Pepper
- Raw Ironbark and Rainforest Honey: unique honey taste from Australian bush. According to Sarah, they are sold in two places in the world ; one especially in this store and the other in Australia.
- Australian Pink Lake Salt: apparently it has high sodium (1950 mg per 5g serving). “Widely used among athlete”, said Sarah.
Spices such as Sumac and Moroccan spices.
Nut Butter: The one I tasted being made in front of me – a combination of unsalted cashew and desiccated coconut. Divinely delicious!
Various Protein Ball and Muesli: Gluten-free, vegan and Paleo ranges. Berry Beet Lunch Ball anyone?
Lemon Collagen Beauty Bar: Contain hydrolysed collagen powder from grass-fed cows, cashew nuts, coconut flakes, lemon powder, lemon oil, camu-camu and monk fruit powder.
Buckinis (you heard me right, not bikinis or burkini): Gluten-free granola made from buckwheat.
Ultra Organic Mix: Made of brazil nut, pecan, cashew, Inca berries, goji berries and cranberries (so deemed suitable for this ultra runner 😉).
5 Grain Goodness: A unique combination of rolled organic oats, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), spelt, quinoa and barley.
Inca berries: A bit sour to my liking though will be new addition to my healthy repertoire.
Kombucha from local supplier with 6 flavours: 1. Jasmine + Hibiscus 2.Lemongrass + Ginger + Turmeric 3. Cucumber + Melon 4. Raspberry + Passionfruit (my favourite) 5. Harmony 6. Yuzu + Lavender
Variety of teas such as marshmallow root which is good to fight cold, flu and digestion issue.
Cricket Powder: Dislikeor like (for or against), apparently it has more protein than chicken or beef per 100g of 3 times. Being eco-farm, they claimed to be “the most sustainable source of protein on earth!”. Rob, the other franchise partner told me, “I used in my smoothie. Tasted like linseed or flaxseed.”
Bentonite clay: I can think of facial mask which I’ve used prior but there’s another usage such as adding to drink, make DIY toothpaste and mouth wash.
Brown Rice and Pea Protein Powder: For making own vegan protein smoothie if crickets ain’t your thing.
Bone Broth Powder: Choices of beef, chicken and vegetable for a convenient way to enjoy natural broths without the hours of preparation.
Bee Pollen: This superfood is collected from hives for a nice addition to a smoothie.
Gojiberry Powder and Dragonfruit Powder: Make such lovely colour to a smoothie on top of the health benefits.
Ancient grains such as Kamut and Freekeh for an alternative to usual grain which high in protein and fibre.
Lentil such as Black Beluga.
Velvet Latte Powder: Made up of beetroot powder with turmeric, cardamom, ginger and pepper (so next time I can try making SOTG’s red velvet version!)
Dried Mushrooms: They are porcini and mixed forest mushroom. Very exquisite.
Several Items Bought So Far
Toothpaste tab: Bought tabs with fluoride and used them during recent Thailand Mountain Trail trip. So I chewed, then I brushed.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes: Delicious when sprinkled on salad or pasta as an alternative to cheese.
Quinoa & Rice Pasta with Spinach and Beetroot: Love this gluten-free pasta.
Soya Crisp: Mr E enjoys this for snacking. Brought back memory from down under (though might not be the most healthiest snack). The honey mustard flavour is the best!
Have you checked out the store yet? If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you do to learn about how to be ‘zero waste’ and discover wide ranges of natural health products. The staff is always around to educate you. You may test and sample most of the products upon asking the staff (with exception to the bigger item that sold per item).
Not only your health will benefit, it goes a long way to save the planet and animals even with 1 less plastic bag each week.
Also, bring your reusable water bottle (or get one at the store) to refill for free.
What’s your opinion on food waste and plastic usage in Singapore? Would you shop at bulk shop like The Source Bulk Foods?
Live to thrive.
More details: The Source Bulk Foods