I spent last Saturday at Earth Natural Foods, an independent health food store in Kentish Town, North London. I run a food startup called Morynga and was raising awareness of our products whilst conducting a tasting session.

[Quick aside – this is my first ever blog post, and I feel the need to fix my colours to the mast early on. I am obsessed. Obsessed with moringa, the superfood plant we base all our recipes on (and from which our name derives); passionate to obsessive about our Breakfast Sprinkles and Herbal Teas; and obsessively pursuing social transformation through business. There, I said it!].

Back to Saturday. I do look forward to hosting tasting sessions at the Kentish Town store because I find the customers to be some of the most informed, opinionated and engaging that I have come across.  In fact a customer jokingly said to me on Saturday ‘I am not one of your typical customers who would just keel over and buy something because you tell me stuff’. What she did not realise is that she is actually quite typical of the customer base. I enjoy being kept on my toes and being stretched, and now attend tasting sessions armed with a large folder of product-relevant research. Although moringa is still fairly unknown, a fair percentage of the customers at the store are aware of it – along with knowledge of an array of other lesser known plants and health developments. In conversation, they would often suggest new plants to consider, health developments to research, books to read and so on.

I was expressing how impressed I was with the customers’ knowledge, when one of them chimed ‘it is because we are all self-obsessed mate!’


After my merriment and bemusement had died down, it got me thinking.

We currently have an NHS groaning under strain – against a backdrop of sound bites of countless government remedial policies and the flashing lights from selfie-obsessed users. There just might be something here. If self-obsession (or I prefer to think self-preservation) has got a community this engaged in their own health and well-being, then perhaps this is a model worth looking at!

NHS resources are now so fragile that government is on permanent look out for other resources to ease the strain. Pharmacies for example are now deployed as part of the first line of offence against sickness. There might therefore be a case for adding Independent Health Food Stores as one of the last lines of defence in protection of wellness. They are already part of the fabric of a community, have a natural flow and pooling of information between staff and customers, are immediately responsive to new information, product recommendations and methodologies required for gaining and maintaining wellness.

Independent Health Food Stores also help food startups like mine, as they are more willing to take risks on new and innovative healthy products than larger retailers would. This incidentally leads them to perform a valuable, if indirect commercial function for the larger retailer; that of indicating a pipeline of successful innovative products for larger stores to stock. (Retailers – you really should be onto our Moringa Sprinkles!)

We often hear old adages, ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘let medicine be thy food’ and countless other cliches. In many Health Food Stores, customers believe it and practice it! Whenever I leave the Health Food Store in Kentish Town, it is with a clutch of newly-compiled customer recommended reading list and a personal resolve to do better on my own wellness journey.

Jartua Gilpin