The Natural Grocers Story

History_AH__9961

IT WAS 1955.

Our parents, Margaret and Philip Isely – poor, idealistic – started Natural Grocers with $200 and a dream that everyone should be able to afford a healthy lifestyle and be empowered to take control of their own health.

margret-polaroidThe inspiration for this dream came from their own struggles to afford healthy food and be healthy. Shortly after the birth of their second child, Margaret became chronically ill. When conventional medicine was unable to help her, she turned to the health mavericks of that time: Adelle Davis and Roger J. Williams. She used the principles in Davis’ book, Let’s Get Well, to heal her body with nutrition, which included eating nutrient-dense, natural foods and taking dietary supplements.

It was a call to action. After the remarkable improvement in Margaret’s health brought on by following this nutrition regimen, our parents became health crusaders. Borrowing $200 to help feed the family and put gas in the car, they went door-to-door in Golden, Colorado lending books on nutrition and giving out samples of whole grain bread. They would return a week or two later, discuss nutrition and take orders for supplements, the bread and other natural, nourishing foods.

In a time when TV dinners and convenience foods were enjoying their heyday, our parents bucked convention. They taught us that nutrition education is the foundation for building health and being in control of your life, and that healthy living should be affordable and accessible to everyone.

Against all odds we’ve succeeded in growing a thriving, dynamic business that empowers people to live in health. We have done this by bucking the trends, by staying current and involved in nutrition, and by using our Five Founding Principles to guide our business decisions.

Some of the most important innovations have been decisions that bucked the trends in the natural food industry itself. For example, against the advice of all the high paid health food industry business consultants, we have always set the majority of our supplement department by section and not by brand. This is so customers can easily compare similar products and choose the one that is best for them.

1989

In 1989 when we incorporated produce departments into our store format, we made the decision to only sell Organic produce. No other large chain does this. Our customers and employees do not have to worry about commingling, cross-contamination, or figuring out which variety of produce is organic and which is conventional. It is all organic.

1990

In 1990 we removed all partially hydrogenated oils from our shelves, because there was significant scientific evidence that it was undeniably harmful to health. Twenty-five years later, the FDA is finally catching up with us and recommending that it be removed from the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list.

1995

In 1995 we formalized our nutrition education programs with the creation of the Nutritional Health Coach position. Today, this is one of our biggest differentiators from our competitors. And it is how we provide the unparalleled nutrition education for which we are known.

2009

In 2009 we went bag-free at our check outs. This has made a big impact on the health of the environment. It is estimated that approximately 200 million bags have been saved from the landfills since implementing this program.

2014

In 2014 we rolled out our pasture-based dairy standards and began the process of removing products that come from confinement dairies from our shelves. This standard provides our customers with dairy products that reap all of the benefits of raising animals as nature intended – dairy that is better for you, the animals, the farmer and the environment. This is a step that has the potential to reverse global warming, stop the desertification of our planet, eliminate the stranglehold chemical agriculture has on policy making and improve the financial well-being of farmers. Properly grazed grasslands can sequester more CO2 than the rainforest and hold the water in the land. Who knew there was so much power in cup of yogurt from a pasture-based dairy? And that a decision to buy it, as opposed to a confinement product, could help the planet more than we imagined.

Sixty years and more than 90 stores later, we continue to carry on our parents’ unconventional way of thinking. We believe this is the way to empower health – the health of individuals, families, and the environment. From our family to yours, we thank you for taking this road to health with us.

 – The Isely Family

 

 

 


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