Natural foods for a local market
Organic focus, small town anomaly
Foodsmiths is somewhat of an anomaly—a large natural food store in a small town—indicating its wide appeal, customer loyalty and service-oriented reputation.
“Perth is a good example of a small economy that emphasizes self sustainability. I have lived here for 35 years, and we are told by the older generation that the Depression was virtually unfelt in Perth because it was such a self sustaining local economy. It continues that traditional today, supporting their local businesses,” says Smith.
“Consequently we want to do that as well. We might encourage a local producer to go organic. It just makes more sense for our market to emphasis local rather than trucking tomatoes from California in the summer.”
Known as a “full grocery store”, with 20 per cent of its business in fresh produce, Foodsmiths emphasizes local and organic products, though not exclusively.
Foodsmiths is going the way of many larger grocery chains, adopting new environmental principles to support the industry.
“We also have an emphasis on our environmental initiatives, often combining charity with environment. One way we do that is when someone saves us giving them a plastic bag at the checkout—in other words, they bring their own bag—we reward them by contributing 10 cents to a charity fund,” said Smith. “Every month we raise about $600 and distribute that to a given charity like local food banks or winter clothing fundraisers for underprivileged children, breakfast programs, and sometimes global initiatives like the Haiti Relief Fund.”
“We try to be an integral part of our community, involving ourselves in community fundraising events, continually raising money for various charitable organizations in our area.”
Smith noted that many of the company’s operations strive to lessen its carbon footprint in “virtually every area,” with Foodsmiths always “putting local at the top of the list”, down to the details of increasing margins on paper, printing on both sides, and energy conservation with the installation of energy efficient lighting on timers.
Foodsmiths also runs many other charitable drives.
“We encourage people to recycle their vitamin bottles by paying them to bring them back to us… like the beer store does with empty bottles. We give them $0.50 toward another purchase, and that brings back an incredible number [of bottles].
“We also make extra effort to donate all unsalable, but usable, product and food to the food bank. Many grocery stores see usable food go into the dumpster.”
“Our goal is to be on top of changes in our industry. We are always looking for things that might work better, and that includes products and searching for better ways to do business,” Smith adds. “Our long-term goals are to continue building the business, being competitive and finding our niche in the market.”
While there are no plans for expansion, the store did at one time have two locations in the Perth market. “We did have two stores at one time–the other in another town in this area—and it’s long since closed, in 1980. We started investigating expanding and we realized we are happy doing what we are doing. We wanted to do one thing really well.”
So what separates Foodsmiths from its competition?
“Anybody that gets to know the store feels a little bit of a different atmosphere, which is an attitude toward the customer that is welcoming, friendly and helpful. There is a culture in the store that we want to help people find what they are looking for and provide alternatives to what people can find in the regular groceries stores,” explains Smith.
Winner of the 2004 Canadian Health Food Association Award as the best natural food store in Canada, Foodsmiths also won three environmental awards in 2007. Since the franchise started in 1976, it has lived by the mission statement to be a leading provider of quality health products and information, doing business in an enjoyable service-oriented environment, providing a full shopping experience.