Organic products, no plastic and a “zero-waste” mentality are the main traits of a new wave of grocery stores that are gaining widespread popularity in the Algarve.
The idea is that clients can bring their own containers and buy as much of any product as they want, helping reduce waste as well as the use of flimsy plastic bags which can be found at supermarkets.
As plastic waste becomes more of a concern around the world, these new grocery stores are expected to provide an eco-friendly alternative.
“This is a way of life,” says Ana Beatriz, the 26-year-old owner of one of the Algarve’s latest zero-waste grocery stores, located on São Brás de Alportel’s Avenida da Liberdade.
Bialógica opened in December and has been “very well received by the community”, she told Barlavento newspaper.
“I have many Portuguese clients, but the majority are foreign tourists. We’ve had a lot of Danish, French and Germans,” she explained, adding that her goal is to catch the attention of more and more people and even become an “example” for supermarkets and large-scale outlets.
“I think that we, small businesses, can become trend-setters for big businesses and to make them think more about the issue of plastic and less about consumerism,” the young entrepreneur said.
Toothbrushes made out of bamboo and loofah sponges are among Bialógica’s best-sellers, although the variety of products that Ana Beatriz stocks is impressive.
The grocery store is divided into four sections: food, hygiene, cleaning products and a section for children.
In the food section, clients can find fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, wholegrain cereal, nuts, seeds, spices, sweets, butter and microgreens.
Handmade soaps are the most popular product in the hygiene section. “There are soaps with many different aromas. They are made by a lady in Olhão who has a partnership with us,” Ana told Barlavento.
Also popular are the grocery store’s biological toothpaste, shampoo bars, mineral deodorants, charcoal floss, bamboo razors and ecological perfumes.
Wooden brooms, cloth napkins and rubbish bags made from sugar cane can also be purchased. Bialógica also has its own selection of toys made by a local craftsman.
“I make the designs, tell the artisan what I want, and he makes them.”
In fact, her whole philosophy is to sell products from Algarve producers as much as possible.
Even when she can’t find anyone in the Algarve who makes the products she wants to sell, she tries to buy them from producers who are as close as possible, such as in Aljustrel. Only rarely does she import products.
The idea to open the store came during a dinner with her family after she said that what São Brás was missing was an “old-school grocery store”.
Since she already used most of the products she sells, had her own vegetable garden at home and avoided using plastic, moving forward with the idea was relatively easy.
She also made the most of her degree in company management and her master’s degree in marketing to take just three months to bring her project to life.
To help her get her business started, Ana Beatriz sought the help of another zero-waste grocery store owner, 29-year-old biologist Sandra Teixeira from Retratos D’Aldeia in Faro. The store is located in front of the town’s Trigo Dourado pastry shop and opened in July 2017.
Due to a weight issue when she was just 12, she decided to start eating healthy.
Later on, she studied biology at the University of Algarve and her passion for healthy eating and reducing waste started to grow. The decision to open her own grocery store was the logical next step.
As she told Barlavento, she has loved nature ever since she was a child.
Teas, dried fruits and nuts, granola and spices are the most popular products, although clients can find many other biological and healthy options.
One of the novelties is a new craft beer from Mértola.
The Algarve’s newest addition to these eco-minded stores, L’Granel, opened in Almancil on April 13 on the same street as the town’s Loja do Município.
“The inauguration was a success and I was fortunate to have welcomed many clients at my store. The item I sold the most was caramalised nuts!” owner Liliana Ribeiro, 52, told Barlavento newspaper, jokingly.
The store also sells tapioca, seeds, natural olive oils, spices, biscuits, chocolates and dehydrated fruit, and will soon stock teas, Monchique liqueurs and spices.
Since she is located near Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, Liliana is hoping that foreign residents and tourists will be attracted by the concept.
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Barlavento article by Maria Simiris
Photos: Maria Simiris/Open Media Group