Information on shopping for organic foods in Cape Town, South Africa

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“Organic”. To many, that word may seem like one of the latest buzzwords floating around certain eccentric circles — something not to be taken seriously; and something synonymous with “pricey”. But organic is more or less how farming used to be before it became so dependent on chemical warfare (against bugs, germs, etc.) and other environmentally unfriendly methods.

According to Jo Lewin, author of “What does organic mean?” from www.bbcgoodfood.com, the word “organic”, when applied to food items, relates to farming and food handling methods that avoid the use of artificial chemicals, GMOs, irradiation, antibiotics, etc.

Perhaps you’re already into shopping organic and curious for more information. Or it might be that you’re not that health-conscious, but mildly interested. Below, I share some information about shopping for organic food products, partly drawing from my own personal interaction with some of the businesses mentioned below.

Stores that sell organic foods (and price comparisons)

Prior to our national lockdown this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were quite a few stores in Cape Town, South Africa in the business of offering organic foods (I don’t know how many of them are still in operation), and below I mention a few.

Woolworths

When it comes to food, Woolworths would seem as though the pricier option in comparison to Pick n Pay, for example. But besides the wide variety of foods on display (on their website), they also offer a range of organic foods.

In comparison to some of the businesses mentioned below that are more focused on organic foods, their prices are more competitive to an extent, specifically concerning their organic broccoli and organic carrots, possibly among others. According to their site, 400 grams of their organic broccoli is currently nearly R21.00 cheaper than 300 grams of organic broccoli offered on the websites of Wild Organics (here) and Think Organic (here).

Wild Organics

Wild Organics is an online store that I used for a while, up until late 2018. Recently (when I checked before), they’ve been offering a wide variety of different organic foods, including, but not limited to, fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy, eggs, and meats.

I haven’t counted every single product offered on their site to compare with Woolworths, but it would appear as though Wild Organics offers an overall wider range of organic products. Recently (when I checked before) they’ve been less competitive than Woolworths with some of their prices, but then they have been offering quite a few types of organic foods that Woolworths has not been.

I don’t know to what extent their business has changed since I last purchased from them, but, at the time I was a regular customer, their site was different to other e-commerce sites in that there was the option to create an online order and pay later with cash at a particular collection point of my choosing. I’d always collect the items on a Wednesday, as that was the designated collection day.

Think Organic

Think Organic is another online store similar to Wild Organics. I never ordered online with them, but rather used to visit a physical store in or near Tygervalley, Cape Town.

Recently (perhaps three weeks ago–that would be a guess), I looked at the prices displayed in the sections for vegetables and herbs on the websites of both Wild Organics and Think Organic. Specifically, I compared the prices of nine of the same or similar foods of more or less the same weight or type on both sites: Three were the same price on both sites; five were slightly cheaper on the Think Organic site; one was cheaper on the Wild Organics site.

Perhaps on the same day, I also counted the total amount of different types of more or less whole organic foods (options that, to one degree or another, weren’t described as diced, cut up or similar) displayed in the sections for vegetables and herbs on each site. There were around 46 such options available on Wild Organics; around 30 on Think Organic.

I don’t have the total number of items and all of their prices displayed on both sites in front of me, but I could guess, based on what I’ve seen, that Wild Organics offers a wider variety of foods than Think Organic and that the latter’s prices are, for the most part, marginally cheaper.

Anna Beulah Farm

Anna Beulah Farm is an organic farm located in Durbanville that also has a store on its premises offering organic foods produced on the same farm. I don’t mean to say that all of the foods sold here come from their farm, but it would appear as though this is mostly the case. I don’t know how many farms there are out there like this, but I can imagine it’s a very unusual one.

I couldn’t find prices for individual foods on their site, but I did manage to find a recent receipt (perhaps five months old at the time of this article’s publishing) displaying a few prices. The handwriting on the receipt was kind of hard to read (so I might have misread it to one extent or another), but here are a few prices for comparison with other businesses offering similar foods:

  • Organic eggs (perhaps small to medium size): R45.00 for 18 (Think Organic has a tray of 18 extra-large organic eggs going for nearly double that price here)
  • Organic cauliflower (more or less whole): R21.00 (Pick n Pay has a more or less whole conventional cauliflower priced as about R1.00 more expensive on their site here)
  • A whole organic pumpkin: R55.00
  • About 3/4 of a kg of organic baby potatoes: R11.18 (1kg of conventional baby potatoes is going for nearly R6.00 more on the Pick n Pay website here)
  • A generous bunch of organic swiss chard: R14.00 (A packet of 200 grams of conventional swiss chard is going for nearly double that price here on the Woolworths site; Pick n Pay has 300 grams of packaged conventional swiss chard priced as about R8.00 more expensive here on their site)

Before the national lockdown, I can remember that I was buying trays of around 30 organic eggs (perhaps small to medium in size) from Anna Beulah Farm for about R70.00. They also used to have Sunday specials during which their eggs may have been going for R55.00 (that would be a guess) per tray of +-30 eggs.

Pick n Pay

According to their website, Pick n Pay is not a big provider of organic whole foods (it appears as though they offer only one such option). But their prices for conventional foods can be used as a sort of benchmark for prices elsewhere.

Wild Organics is known for their organic foods; and Pick n Pay, the conventional. So I compared the prices of seven similar vegetables that have been displayed on their sites and this is what I found:

  • carrots: Pick n Pay’s conventional carrots (here) were, in a sense, about R11.00 cheaper than Wild Organics’ organic ones (here)
  • celery: Pick n Pay’s (here) looked as though about R2.00 cheaper (also taking into consideration that theirs appears packaged and neatly prepared) than Wild Organics’ (here)
  • Pineapples: Pick n Pay’s (here) were about R7.00 cheaper than Wild Organics’ (here) (when I checked another time, perhaps a week ago, Pick n Pay’s pineapples looked as though about the same price as Wild Organics’)
  • English spinach: Perhaps a week ago, it looked like Pick n Pay’s (here) was, in a sense, about the same price as Wild Organics’ (since I checked before, perhaps a week ago, English spinach has been removed from their site)
  • leeks: Wild Organics’ (here) were about R3.00 cheaper than Pick n Pay’s (here), also taking into consideration that Pick n Pay’s appears packaged and neatly prepared, despite the missing greens/leaves (which are edible) that Wild Organics apparently keeps intact
  • Swiss chard: Wild Organics’ (here) looked about R4.00 cheaper than Pick n Pay’s (here), taking into consideration that Pick n Pay’s appears packaged

Conclusion

In this article, I named and discussed a few of the stores in Cape Town, South Africa currently offering organic food on their websites: namely Woolworths, Wild Organics, Think Organic, Anna Beulah Farm, and Pick n Pay (to a lesser extent). I compared prices between these businesses, making mention also of Pick n Pay, a store that would seem as though an overall cheaper alternative to Woolworths.

Organic food would appear as though a more expensive alternative to conventional food, and this is true to a limited extent. The price differences in this regard, I would imagine, vary from minor to extreme, depending on what type of food you’re comparing (for example, it would seem as though the greatest disparity in price I’ve seen between organic and conventional has been with eggs).

However, there are instances where the organic option is cheaper than its conventional counterpart, particularly, I’d imagine, concerning Anna Beulah Farm. I could guess that, for the most part, shopping at Anna Beulah Farm for fruit and vegetables is cheaper than at Pick n Pay.

A little bit of exploration beyond the conventional and the big names in the marketplace can yield pleasant money-saving and health-rewarding surprises.