It’s a hard truth, but when it comes to affordable prices for all as it pertains to organic foods, it’s just not a reality.
That’s not our belief, but the frank notions of Scott Nash, CEO of Mom’s Organic Market, which recently unveiled a 12,000 square foot organic superstore in Center City (34 S. 11th St.) on Sept. 8. The reality, says Nash, is as long as chemically farmed, processed foods rule the shelves at a cheaper price point – thanks to mega-producers that line the pockets of lobbyists to remain top billing – healthier, organic options for the dinner table will unfortunately continue to take the expensive back seat.
We caught up with Nash on grand opening day to chat chemicals, preservatives and how you won’t find any of that at Mom’s – hopefully at a price all can readily afford.
What can consumers expect at Mom’s that differs from the other higher end organic-specific marketplaces, like a Whole Foods, another massive urban store here in the city?
We have a price guarantee against Whole Foods and our prices are overall substantially cheaper. We feel that Whole Foods with all of its products really acts as a novelty for people who are looking to get into eating more organically, but are still not taking it quite seriously. I feel like people who go there and get the bug and want to take that lifestyle more seriously, then come to us.
Where does most of your products come from? How much of it is sourced locally?
We host a lot of local outlets, but it’s almost impossible to source completely locally in this zone. For starters, we have seasons here in the Northeast, so almost a third of the stuff we get in and a lot of other markets get in come from either Florida or California and even Mexico. It’s warmer there and it can be grown year round. I think what Philly will see once they come to our stores is that [Mom’s] has more than three times the amount of products than a lot of other stores. We consider our prices to be fair and we have price guarantees that we hope make our options affordable. Ultimately our goal is provide good products for people to make their lives better.
Okay, so explain why eating organic has to cost so damn much?
Actually, it’s the chemically farmed and processed foods that cost more in many, many ways. Maybe not at the checkout counter, but when it comes to the obesity and other health risks simply because of the food so many are forced to eat. Plus, you factor the environmental issue with all of the chemicals and preservatives that are sprayed on food, which also contaminates our waterways. There’s a huge hidden price for cost of chemically farmed foods and in my opinion, organics would be a cheaper route.
Sure, but look at it from the point of a single parent making minimum wage. Of course, they’d like to provide a healthier option for their families, but they don’t have time to think about the long term effects of the other options.
That’s true, but there’s also the issue of these huge [agriculture] farmers that receive subsidies from lobbyists, corporate welfare and recipients of corporate welfare that just isn’t offered to the organic farmer. That in turn, just makes these options more expensive...people will say that organic options are more expensive over other foods, but it’s like arguing why a Lexus has to be more expensive than buying a Toyota Corolla. It’s a completely different product that is better for the consumer and unfortunately that will always come at a greater cost. People want organic food to be as cheap as crap food and that’s just not realistic. And also the demand for these types of food is higher than the supply and that’s going to always drive the price as well.
So you believe that organic food should be higher?
It should be higher. It’s simply a better product. Unfortunately for the single mom making minimum wage, it’s going to be harder for her to buy organic foods just like it’d be hard for someone to buy two different things in almost every category of consumer goods.
Is it a pie in the sky thought to think that better food for all is can become a reality?
The problem is that all the other foods, the processed conventional food is subsidized and organic is not. I can’t stress enough that in a perfect world feeding people with the best possible product would be the goal of most in this business, but there are hidden and not so hidden factors in this business that frankly don’t make that a reality.
Let’s switch gears. You just opened another Mom’s franchise, this one right in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Was this location by design? What was the attraction of Center City?
So the Center City [Mom’s] location is our first urban store. We consider ourselves radicals in many ways. Not just with food, but we’re radicals with our whole view. So we think that Philly one is a great market and that it matches our activist way of doing business. And that’s activism on many levels. We’re very optimistic and are excited, but I’m also nervous considering we are opening an entirely new concept for us which is expanding stores into a more urban location, so we’ll see how it goes.