Food and Ingredients Sourcing in Health Foods


The health food industry is big business. It’s growing steadily each year and is strengthened by progression in sustainability and agribusiness.

Different diet types are dependent on different ingredients, their availability and costs. Gluten-free diets, for example, will lean more on rice, legumes, starchy vegetables, and non-wheat grains for carbohydrates, while vegetarian and vegan diets will depend on plant-based proteins, and keto diets will create meals based on proteins and fats with limited amounts of carbohydrate.

Yet some diets have additional considerations in terms of sourcing ingredients, such as using grass-fed meats. This means that prior to sourcing ingredients it is important to spend time thinking about:

  • key points for the diet/rules of the diet
  • what matters most to the consumer for the diet, e.g., eating locally, eating organic, eating clean/low preservative
  • any principles or ethics that affect sourcing ingredients, e.g., some vegans eat avocadoes while others do not due to the use of migratory beekeeping for production
  • availability of key ingredients, e.g., using arrowroot works as a starch in gluten-free flour blends, but even if it provides a better flour blend than tapioca or corn starch, may not be viable due to lack of availability
  • cost of key ingredients, e.g., making macadamia feta as a non-dairy cheese is creamier, but also more expensive than making an almond feta
  • dietary concerns and the potential for related diets, e.g., vegan products will also appeal to consumers who are dairy-free or egg-free, or that many people with coeliac disease who depend on gluten-free products also cannot eat oat products, even though, when processed separately, oats are naturally gluten-free.

Buy Local
Today, produce is available from all corners of the world. These bountiful choices offer variety, delicacies, and options, and while these items may appear beautiful, the flavour of out-of-season produce cannot compare with that of fruits or vegetables harvested at their peak.

Local food is good because it tends to be more flavourful than food that has been transported from afar. In season fruits and vegetables often cost less than foods that are brought in from faraway places. When farmers have a generous supply of a particular item, the price is usually very fair.

Locavorism is a movement wherein consumers purchase food only from within the local area. This reduces each consumer’s environmental footprint while also supporting local businesses and producers. Many health food stores and coops actively seek out local producers for product and may even highlight such products in-store.

Many cafés and restaurants that showcase their support for local farms and producers have also built a strong following.

The farmer’s market is a useful place to start meeting local farmers and other producers. Such markets provide a direct way for creators to speak with the farmer, try producer, and make connections during the design and testing process.

This is a useful way of gathering information about potential suppliers; it can also help build important networks within the relevant communities. Remember, farmers markets sell more than just fruit and vegetables – they are also a source of local jams, honeys, breads and pastries, and many other products that can be used in a café or restaurant setting.

Farmers Market Insights

  • Shopping at a farmers’ market opens constantly offers new varieties of vegetables and fruits. It is best to choose one or two produce items that you’ve never cooked with before. These can be tested prior to using on the menu.
  • Local farmers often have cooking suggestions for fresh kale, broccoli, turnips, and other local produce. This is a good way to bring local produce and ideas into product or menu design.
  • Many farmers offer samples of their products and encourage tasting. Peaches, for example, can vary from highly acidic to super sweet. This will help in identifying the best varieties for use, and potential suppliers for the future.
  • Sampling different varieties of produce within a family or new hybrids or heirlooms enhances product and menu design.
  • Taking a canvas bag, possibly a few plastic produce bags and containers for delicate items will help you to transport the raw ingredients.
  • The benefits of shopping at your local market include sampling the season’s first produce or acquiring speciality ingredient like creamy goat’s cheese which can be used in a product to be manufactured.
  • The concept of seasonable fruit and vegetables is an age-old idea. Before refrigeration and mass transportation, people ate only what was growing in gardens, nearby farms, or orchards.

Seasonality may initially feel like deprivation in the consumer, but with careful marketing, presenting seasonal products which support this conception, many consumers happily buy into this.

Sell Local
When starting out in manufacturing health foods, selling at a farmers’ market is the ideal place to start.

Increasingly people are realising the joys of shopping, cooking, and eating from the farmers’ market. Straight from the farm, bountiful and colourful displays of produce make it easy to prepare healthy, flavourful meals using the freshest fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season.

If you’d like to learn more about producing health foods then have a look at our online courses here. All of our courses are TQUK endorsed and come with unlimited tutor support!




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