You Are What You Eat

MT
Being green, loving the environment and striving to be more natural has never been more fashionable in the West. A desire for ecological purity has led shoppers to be prepared to pay a little extra for food that is grown without the use of artificial substances.

The organic craze has caught on as people take a greater interest in protecting the environment from harmful farming methods and seek greater awareness of exactly what is in the food they consume.

But until recently, organic products have struggled to compete in Moscow because of local confusion as to what organic actually means and prices that are beyond the reach of the average Muscovite.

Organic -- known in some countries as bio -- means crops grown and processed without the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers or food additives and meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. In Europe and the United States, government agencies are responsible for the classification of food as organic, a practice involving strict checks on the production process.

Organic food is almost always more expensive than "conventional" food, because of the rigorous standards of "naturalness" that have to be maintained. Furthermore, because the system for certifying organic products in Russia is not standardized, there are few certified organic producers in the country. As a result, certified organic food is generally imported from abroad, primarily Europe, pushing the prices even higher.

The organic market got off to an inauspicious start in Moscow. Having opened its doors in April 2004, the organic store Ryzhaya Tykva, or Orange Pumpkin, closed them again only a year later.

In May 2005, the shop's general director, Konstantin Komissarov, told the business magazine Sekret Firmy that the owners of the company had decided to try to create a culture of organic consumption in Moscow rather than wait for someone else to fill the niche.


Vladimir Filonov / MT
Buying produce from individual growers doesn't necessarily mean that it's organic.
The failure of this enterprise, however, has not deterred a number of companies from opening specialist organic food stores across Moscow recently.

The organic shop and caf? BIO Gourmet opened in December 2006. The shop offers more than 2,000 products, from meat and fish to fresh vegetables and fruits and even cosmetics. The products are imported from around the world, including Siberia and Lake Baikal, but with the majority coming from Europe.

All products in the store are certified by their country of origin. Freshness is another important focus -- organic bread is baked in-store three times a day, and fresh vegetables and fruit are delivered from France every week. There is also a caf? on the first floor serving a range of organic dishes.

The store operates a delivery service throughout Moscow for a fee of 300 rubles, but delivery is free in the local area for orders of over 5,000 rubles ($200). The shop is currently closed, but hopefully will reopen soon.

The ecosupermarket Grunwald opened in fall 2006 on the exclusive Rublyovskoe Shosse. It offers over 3,000 certified products from across Europe, including foodstuffs, cosmetics and pet food. There is also a cafe, a chocolate machine and a mill in the store's bakery.

There are seven Globus Gourmet stores in Moscow, selling high-quality food from the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. These food boutiques offer 5,000 organic products alongside food specially prepared for their delicatessen. On the menu in the cafe next door to the branch on Novy Arbat are dishes prepared from products available in-store.

Arivera.ru is an Internet shop that offers over 3,000 organic products for delivery. All the items are imported from Europe, and next-day delivery is available on some products, although many must be ordered in advance to ensure freshness. Any order over 3,000 rubles ($120) is delivered free of charge.

There are two Organiclab stores in Moscow that stock organic food, including freshly baked bread. Each store also contains a cafe, where the specialty is fresh fruit smoothies.

Many of Moscow's large, non specialist superstores have organic food sections, with the widest range at Azbuka Vkusa. Organic food is also available in health food shops, such as Dzhagannat, which is also a cafe, and New Age shops, such as Put K Sebe.

Contacts

BIO Gourmet, 40/1 Ul. Ostozhenka, M. Park Kultury, 246-1128

Grunwald, 30/1 Rublyovskoe Shosse, 413-0565

Globus Gourmet has seven stores in Moscow, two of which are located at 22 Ul. Bolshaya Yakimanka, M. Polyanka, 995-2170 and 19 Novy Arbat, M. Arbatskaya, 775-0918. www.arivera.ru, 984-7400

Azbuka Vkusa, www.azbukavkusa.ru, 504-3487

Dzhagannat, 11 Kuznetsky Most, M. Kuznetsky Most 628-3580

Put K Sebe, 16 Krasnoproletarskaya Ul., M. Novoslobodskaya, 746-5347 and 6 Novokuznetskaya Ul., M. Novokuznetskaya, 951-9129

Organic Lab, 1 Tishinskaya Ploshad, M. Belorusskaya and 8 Novinsky Bulvar, Lotte Plaza, 617-0888, www.organiclab.ru