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The term health food has been used since the 1920s to refer to specific foods claimed to be especially beneficial to health, although the term has no official definition. Some terms that are associated with health food are macrobiotics, natural foods, organic foods and whole foods. Macrobiotics is a diet focusing primarily on whole cereals. Whole cereals, along with other whole foods, are foods that are minimally processed. Whole cereals have their fiber, germ and hull intact and are considered more nutritious. Natural foods are simply foods that contain no artificial ingredients. Organic foods are foods that are grown without the use of conventional and artificial pesticides and must meet certain
organic standards.History of health food stores
History of health food stores
Many foods which are now commonplace in groceries first entered the market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Efforts by early health pioneers such as Sylvester Graham, Horace Greeley, John Harvey Kellogg, George Ohsawa, Ellen White and others spurred an interest in health food. As early as the 1920s and 1930s health food stores started opening in the United States and the United Kingdom selling products such as blackstrap molasses and brewer’s yeast.
Perhaps the oldest health food store was founded by Thomas Martindale in 1869 as “Thomas Martindale Company” in Olde City Philadelphia. The Martindale family eventually moved the store to 10th and Filbert St. in the late 1930’s and was heavily influenced by the new interest in health and wellness. The store manufactured their own coffee substitute made from dried figs called “Figco”. Healthy foods were sold in the lunchroom, with all baked goods being sweetened with honey or maple syrup. Eventually the store evolved into what is known as Martindale’s Natural Market which is still in existence today.
Frank A. Sawall, who earlier worked for John Harvey Kellogg, began selling powdered mineral drinks door to door and lecturing around the United States on the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements, before opening Sawall Health Food Products, Inc, in 1936, one of the United States’ oldest family-owned natural foods stores. It began with powdered minerals and vitamins and also sold natural and organic foods. Frank A. Sawall, expanded his stores in Michigan, including Detroit, Kalamazoo, Bay City, Grand Rapids, and Lansing. Creating the first health foods store chain in the United States.
The New Westminster store operated by Health Food Research, opened in 1954 on the outskirts of Vancouver, British Columbia. It was founded by Ella Birzneck, and modeled partly upon Russian “doctors’ shops”, which carried medicines, herbs, and special foods.
Health food stores became much more common in the 1960s in connection to the newly emerging ecology movement and counterculture. Many health food stores are worker owned cooperatives and consumers’ cooperatives due in part to the ability of cooperative buying power to bring lower costs to the consumer and their growth of popularity during the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Over the last decade, health food, and especially organic food, has entered the mainstream. Companies such as Whole Foods Market, a large multinational corporation, have profited greatly and grown substantially during this expansion.
 Whole food stores
Some stores that would usually be thought of as ‘health food stores’ prefer the term ‘whole food stores’ to acknowledge that they sell whole or organic foods, but not the large range of artificial nutritional supplements common in other health food stores.
- For example:
- Health Food & Gift Store in Brora