How to start a health food store

This growing industry could give you some healthy profits, read our business guide to help you get started...

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The rules and regulations of the health store industry

As with all shop-based businesses, it is important to contact your local council so you can make sure you’re following the correct health and safety regulations while you start your business.

However, there are specific rules that you must keep in mind when you start trading – not least certification for the selling of organic products.

By law, retailers must hold a certificate to sell on organic produce supplied to them. The word ‘organic’ is actually a legally defined term, regulated by the European Union. It’s against the law for an uncertified retailer to sell on goods marked as organic.

Food must be produced on a farm which has been pesticide- and chemical-free for two years for it to qualify as ‘organic’. Similarly, an organic product can only contain 5% or less non-organic material.

The certification of retailers is regulated in Britain by the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food (UKROFS). Bodies such as the Soil Association and the Organic Food Federation award certification, with the products generally bearing the name of the awarding agency, although this is not required by law.

Under these licensing laws, health food stores are able to ‘break bulk’ of supplies. This means retailers without a certificate cannot sell on part of a batch of goods from a supplier – which includes the self-service scoops of rice, pulses and other foods you often find in health food stores.

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“There is certainly a sketchy knowledge among businesses about certification,” says Richard Bosly, of the Organic Food Federation. “It’s important health food stores know all about this as they could have the Trading Standards Authority on their back if they’re selling organic food which isn’t certified.”

Interestingly, although all organic food has to be regulated in this way, the same does not apply to other organic products, such as shampoo and cosmetics.

“It is advisable to get these items certified, if only to prove to everyone that they are, in fact, organic products,” advises Bosly.