Supermarket switch up - women lead the way in sustainable shopping

In our new sustainability series, we talk to Byron hinterland locals doing great things for our planet.  

Aussie households spend on average $140 per week on groceries with much of that going to the likes of Coles, Woolies and Aldi.

As Organic Gardener Magazine notes, non-organic fruit and vegetables have been sprayed with insecticides, herbicides and fungicides for the control of insects, weeds and fungi.

These chemicals have been linked to cancer, neurological conditions and a range of other health issues.

Last year when Coronavirus hit, sales of certified organic lines jumped more than 50 per cent.

Anna Sokol runs online grocery store Rider. They stock sustainable, spray-free wholefoods, organics and ethically produced household goods. Rider delivers locally across the Northern Rivers and also ship across Australia. 

“When COVID started Rider really took off,” Anna said.

The Rider website is clean, stylish and easy to navigate. And it’s no wonder, Anna spent years living in New York and working as an managing director for a not-for-profit art organisation running a huge gallery and performance space in Brooklyn in an area now known as Dumbo

“The real estate agent gave us the building and said put Dumbo on the map and you can stay here rent free for as long as you want.

The now upscale Dumbo, an acronym for “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass”, sits between the Brooklyn Bridge, Bridge Street, York Street and the East River. Image: Melisa Figueroa

“We did some amazing stuff. I met Matt, my husband, and we eventually moved back to Australia and quickly realised how much we missed the authentic Mexican food in the States. So we opened our own, above the legendary indie rock venue Hopetoun Hotel in Sydney. It was a huge success. However, the pub shut its doors unexpectedly one day so we shifted our food business to a large loft warehouse apartment we were renting in Redfern and started hosting private functions. 

“We threw amazing events and loved the lifestyle. I was also working as event manager at the Open Air Cinema, which was intense 16-hour days for 3 months of the year. 

“When pregnant with our first child, we seriously thought about making the move to the Northern Rivers as Matt was from the area. At the time I was moving towards organic products and was horrified at the cost of them.

"Bulk food shops were buying the same products as I was, but they were marking up products by 300 per cent or more. It didn’t make sense that you could only afford spray-free food if you were well off and this is where the seeds of the Rider bulk-food business grew from.

“It started as a spreadsheet I shared with our friends outlining the products I bought in bulk. They would tick items and quantities on the spreadsheet and email it back to me. 

“When we finally made the move to Rosebank a couple of years later it instantly took off. We quickly connected with a community of like-minded people and I would coordinate with them to deliver their box in Mullum, South Golden, Brunswick, Lismore, Ballina and everywhere in between.  

“We created the website and e-store and then when COVID started orders went crazy and I formalised the delivery schedule to the homes of our customers. We now deliver twice a week, Tuesday and Friday.

The Rider website is beautiful and functional

"Most of our customers are mothers who choose to be conscious of what their family are eating. They’re awakened to the idea of organics but they’re also the ones who struggle to go into bulk health food stores because little hands will just get into everything in the shop. It’s nice to know I can help them save time, money and the hassle of going into town. Not to mention they can order when they have time, often in the evenings, and then have it delivered right to their homes.

Rider’s products are reasonably priced and they have a strong focus on making their supply chain ethical and sustainable. 

“We’re constantly swapping out products when we find local suppliers to reduce food miles. The rain-fed brown rice for example, is from Casino so I’ll drive out there to pick it up and it also gives me a chance to meet the farmers and learn about their brilliant farming practices.

"The macadamias and pecans are from local farmers as well. And it’s not just about the food miles, it’s about sustaining the economy in our local area and supporting our local producers. Buying direct from them means they get more of that money. 

“We also love supporting the small producers in the region. There are so many exciting, nutritious and ethically produced goodies being made in our region. It really is one of the reasons I love living here so much.

Some of the best selling local products are the Crack Fox Hot Sauce, the Pancakes with Purpose made with rescued green bananas the big supermarkets reject and the soap, shampoo and conditioner bars from Hemp Collective.

Some of Rider's local products 

“One of the Australian products flying off the shelves is Wakame Seaweed by Kai Ho. It’s produced from wild grown and hand harvested Undaria found in the clean waters of Tasmania’s south-east coast. Adding seaweed to our daily diet is an easy way to get all those valuable trace minerals and elements, and a natural way to get iodine into the system - essential for healthy brain and thyroid function. Steer clear of iodized table salt which is full of toxins and anti-caking agents.

“I think it’s so popular because a lot of the world’s seaweed products tend to be from Japan and after the Fukushima disaster people want to purchase their seaweed from elsewhere. We sell a lot of this, it’s delicious and flaky and goes really well in salads and soups. I ship this all over Australia, from the Northern Territory to the furthest corners of Western Australia," Anna said. 

Nightcap Ridge just added Rider’s Toasted Muesli as an optional extra for their guests along with a wide range of milks. 


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