Manic Organic – Part 2

Today we’re looking at the organic options in the higher-end grocery stores in my ‘hood. And the options really appear to be all about location. In Parkdale proper, even the prepackaged organic items can be hit or miss, but once I headed over to Roncesvalles Avenue where the supermarkets face stiff competition from a plethora of greengrocers, the organic options were overwhelming.

2280 Dundas West

With 300 products in the PC Organics line, I’m not about to list them all, and I’m going to go with the assumption that the Dufferin Mall No Frills offers a good cross-section of the prepared organic products. Instead, at Loblaws I concentrated on the produce section where there was, indeed, a decent amount of organic options to choose from. Organic strawberries were posted as being $5.99 compared to $4.99 for conventional and that price must have been attractive to customers as there were no organic strawberries left when I was there.

Of the organic cabbage, beets, radish, kale and carrots, all were imported. Pineapples, grapes and pears were also sold bagged, so there was no picking and choosing. Organic onions and sweet potatoes were sold in bags only, which might make the conventional versions of those items more of an option for anyone who needed only one or two of each. There was a decent selection of loose organic fruit, however, with mangoes, oranges, pears, lemons, avocado and kiwi all represented, as well as 5 varieties of organic apples.

Loblaw’s carried the organic PC greens, of course, along with a selection of organic house brand salad dressings to go with them.

What we couldn’t find in an organic version – sweet bell peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Sobeys Express
199 Roncesvalles Avenue

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this little Sobeys – it’s the smallest store I checked in terms of square footage. However, there was a decent selection of organic produce, not quite as big as the Loblaw’s up the street, but not bad. Sobeys does offer their own Compliments Organic line, created as competition to the PC Organics brand at Loblaws, but the number of products is much smaller.

I did find one organic salad dressing, as well as organic olive and sunflower oils. This location didn’t seem to carry the organic canola oil, although it does exist. As non-organic canola is usually genetically-modified, searching out an organic version is a very good idea. Elsewhere in the store, I found organic fruit snacks, maple syrup and coffee, but no organic tea. There was organic pasta sauce, but no organic pasta. There were two kinds of organic cookies, but no organic crackers.

There were free-run organic eggs as well as brand name organic milk and soy milk. Also, brand name organic baby food.

Price Chopper
22 Northcote Avenue

Sadly, the Price Chopper store, which is my closest supermarket and where I normally go when I need basics, had the least in terms of organic offerings. As a subsidiary of Sobeys the store has access to the Compliments Organic line, and they do carry a few items, but certainly not all of them. They also seem to be slack about restocking the organic items when they’ve sold out, and some things, such as organic, free-range eggs have never appeared in the store, despite the fact that Price Chopper has one of the largest egg selections I came across and that I’ve repeatedly asked the store manager to stock the organic eggs. You can occasionally find the house brand of organic juice, butter, and oil, but more often than not, the organic section is bare or picked over.

There is no organic produce at all, not even in the form of the pre-washed baby greens that seem to appear as either the house brand or the brand name everywhere else.

In conclusion – despite the extra price you’ll pay by choosing a Loblaws over the other stores, it really does seem as if they’ve got the best choice if you want organic products (and produce) and have no choice but to shop at a chain supermarket.

There are still gaps in the PC Organics product line, however, and hopefully they’ll continue to work at offering customers more organics in the form of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, pasta, and treats like ice cream and snacks.

It’s also important to remember that “organic” has one specific meaning, and to source the produce or ingredients for prepared products, Loblaw’s often imports these items from other countries and continents. While the ideal would obviously be organic and local food, until such a time as our supermarket chains can find local sources, customers have to make up their own minds as to what is most important to them.