Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vitamin Cottage Paleo?

Is Vitamin Cottage Paleo?  Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is a regional chain that just had it's NYSE IPO in July and has plans to go national within the next couple of years.  More about their stores in a minute, but first I want to posit that they are secretly paleo.  They have a store 40 miles down the valley from here, and occasionally have their 'Health Hotline' insert in the Aspen Times newspaper.  It's a 20 page or so flyer that has their deals for the month in addition to several health articles, usually including a couple on vitamins and a couple on 'health' issues.  In this month's edition there are two articles titled Gut Health and Heal Your Gut.  These are flat out paleo articles people.  No joke.  I'm not talking about, oh, this part is paleo but not this part.  This is full on, grains and seed oils are bad, and just because you can't feel them doing harm doesn't mean they aren't damaging you.  Following the articles they give recipes for, get this, Bone Broth, Unpasteurized Sauerkraut, and Clarified Butter (Ghee).  Here's just a couple of sample quotes:
"The typical American breakfast tends to focus on sugar-laden, highly processed cereals and pastries that supply next to nothing in the way of nutrients. Even those breakfast cereals that claim to be high-fiber and high-protein are generally highly processed and heavy on sugar."
"We are constantly told to eat more whole grains for health, but in reality, grain-based foods (even whole grains) can be a major culprit in damaging the intestinal lining.  The gluten containing grains (wheat, spelt, rye, barley, kamut, and triticale) appear to be especially problematic, with wheat in the lead because it is so omnipresent in the American diet."
Now get up off the floor and let me explain to you why this is a big deal.  You see, this is a real live, brick and mortar business that is out to make a profit.  If they don't sell stuff, they don't survive.  They aren't some blog, book, or website that is waxing paleo, primal, or ancestral health and trying to inform and set a good example for others.  No, this is a ruthless company.  I know because they're a local Colorado based chain, and are one of our competitors.  I call these guys the 'little Wal-Mart' of the natural grocery world.  They are out looking for, no, demanding, deals and discounts and then passing them on to their customers.  They are known for their low prices.  They keep overhead down by not offering prepared foods, among other things.  They are more like a Trader Joe's than a Whole Foods, except they also have lots of vitamins and supplements.  And they already have over 60 stores in the Southwest and will be going national soon.  These guys have a plan, so watch out for them.

Now, I'm not implying that their stores are paleo or primal.  Nope, they sell pretty much all of your natural grocery lines, and they usually have a small produce and dairy section in addition to selling frozen grass fed meats.  What pops into my mind when trying to frame this company is that they're a natural grocer with a paleo philosophy, whereas Whole Foods is a natural grocer with a vegetarian philosophy.  They're both ultimately out to make a profit and will likely continue to sell products that run 'against' their philosophies, but it's a stark contrast to say the least.

Okay, so here's what I like about this.  Not anywhere in their literature, store, or website will you see Vitamin Cottage connecting themselves with Paleo or Primal.  It's obvious if you read between the lines, but your average Joe won't make the connection with our rapidly becoming infamous labels.  I think this is a good thing.  There certainly needs to be those of us out there promoting and informing others about our lifestyle, but there also needs to be this unattached, market driven front as well.  In a way, this is like someone trying to sneak some liver into their kids meals. 

Not all Aspen leaves turn golden
All of this good news aside, I don't want to make this sound like some love fest for Vitamin Cottage.  I'm on the inside of the natural grocery business and I can tell you that I hear things about various companies and they're no different.  They are first and foremost a business out to make a profit.  Absolutely nothing wrong with this of course, it's just my guess that one of the members of the Isley family (who owns Vitamin Cottage) is living Paleo/Primal.  The family has too much control of their business to be having some rogue nutritionist writing a couple of 'wacky' articles for them.  No, I'd bet my bottom dollar this is very much on purpose.  Cool.  Good for them, and ultimately good for all of us too.

Just your typical commute home from work!


The Primalist said...

Ha. It's like you're "calling them out" on being paleo :P

But that is very interesting. I shop at Whole Foods and get oh so tired of the blatant vegan agenda. Passing by the China Study on proud display is not a great start to my day.

Aaron said...

Yeah, I guess I was trying to balance my enthusiasm for their being paleo with knowing that they can be quite bullyish in the business world.

In the flyer I refer to on the post, there is a book club section that has 'Nourishing Traditions' and 'Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom' listed among others. Literally quite the opposite of Whole Foods.