Ecotiendas: Finding Healthy Organic and Locally-Sourced Foodstuffs in Guadalajara, Mexico
The organic and/or locally sourced movement is still getting off the ground in Mexico, in general. Not to say that folks weren’t already producing organic products or sourcing products locally in Mexico before, but simply that the organization of businesses and resources around these ends and the emphasis on the importance of these aspects of consumption are still works-in-progress.
The focus on where things come from, how they are grown, and the means by which they get to market is increasing but is not hyper-strong throughout the entire country yet. There’s plenty of room for growth. You’ll most likely have the easiest time finding wholesome and healthy organic and locally-sourced goods in el DF (Mexico City, Distrito Federal), be they offered by specialty stores, restaurants or other businesses. However, more and more, various shops are popping up here in Guadalajara.
To be honest, we can’t say that we’re overly impressed with the choices or the pricing or the variety. But, availability is improving poco a poco as they say (little by little). In this article we’ll review a few specialty store options and pass on our recommendations. In later articles we’ll address things like organic-market meetups and restaurants.
There are several ecotiendas, as they are referred to, in different neighborhoods throughout the city including Providencia, Villaseñor, Santa Tere and Ladrón de Guevarra to name a few, but we’ll just come right out and say it – our favorite thus far is Jengibre in Providencia (Web site and Facebook). The proprietess can tell you specifically where the products come from, how they were produced, and how they made it to her store. For instance, she has personally visited the farm where the free-range organic eggs come from to ensure that things are as they should be. She is serious about her business and forthcoming in her dealings. The store has a good variety for its size. It is not a large supermarket yet it carries everything from the aforementioned eggs to cookies and other sweets to the best bread we’ve found in the city to hydroponic lettuce and other greens to organic meats to juices to personal care products to items for the kitchen and more. What’s more, you can place an order via WhatsApp (email the store to be added to their group).
Not only are you dealing with an honest business that has decent variety, but the pricing in many cases is not ridiculous either. In most of the other stores we’ve visited, because something is stamped organic or presented as “all-natural”, the businesses seem to think that validates really high prices, relatively speaking. At Jengibre, however, while it is true that you will find things that are more expensive than they are say in the US, you will also find other product pricing that is more in line with general cost-of-living standards here in Guadalajara.
We have visited Natural-Mente in Providencia (Web site and Facebook), Gaia Eco Store in Providencia (Facebook), Ecotienda in Ladrón de Guevarra (Web site and Facebook), Sentido Común in Ladrón de Guevara (Facebook), and the Panadería Pablito in Villaseñor (Facebook), and for the most part, we would say that they have the concept but not entirely the execution. Here the employee who’s been hired to handle the cash register knows nothing about the products, there the products are organic but they are marked-up to the sky. Here they have very little in the way of product variety although the products may (or may not) be of stellar quality, there they don’t have many interesting products at all.
A close second for us is Ecotienda in Ladrón de Guevarra (Web site and Facebook). They’ve been around a long time and, in addition to the products they carry on a regular basis ranging from organic meats to jams to fresh produce and more, they host a small farmer’s market outside their shop’s door every Saturday. Additionally, they now boast two locations, the second one situated in Colonia Ciudad del Sol.
We don’t really aim to steer you away from any of the other businesses we’ve mentioned above and we have nothing to gain from doing so. In fact, you may find that your favorite place to buy organic agave syrup is not Jengibre (because they just don’t carry any), but rather Mama Coneja, or the best deal on organic whole wheat pasta may be at the Walmart in Plaza Galerias. However, we are trying to give you a healthy head start in your organic and locally-sourced shopping adventures, and we’ve found so far that Jengibre and Ecotienda are the best places to start.
We should add that tienda naturista (health food store) chains like Súper Naturista, supermarkets like Soriana, Superama, Walmart and Mega (but probably not Aurrera), wholesalers like Costco and smaller independent supermarkets like Goiti, La Casita and Aladinos have some (though in some cases very few) organic products on their shelves. The Súper Naturista in el centro is a good place to check out for healthy basics at decent prices like quinoa and beverages, but only some of the items are actually organic. The Superama Manuel Acuña in Monraz and the Superama Rubén Darío in Providencia each have one full aisle of gourmet, “all-natural” and organic items, making them the supermarkets with the most such items. Goiti and La Casita top this list in interesting “I miss food from home” offerings, but we can’t honestly say that they really hit the mark either. In general, most of these stores either miss it on pricing or they miss it on variety or they miss it on sheer lack of organic or locally-sourced products. Forget about anything like Whole Foods down here for now.
Then there’s the reality that supermarkets tend to be subject to the whims of local management. For instance, the Soriana in Providencia carries different products than the Soriana in Avenida Americas closer to Santa Tere. Same chain but different vision or something. The prices on organic goods usually aren’t that great but sometimes, just sometimes, they are. Much to our surprise, the Soriana in Av. Americas next to Santa Tere was at one time carrying organic virgin coconut oil at the best price we could find for this product in its going size. Then they simply stopped carrying it altogether, much to our disappointment, and now we go to the Costco in Plaza Galerias for big unrefined jugs of the stuff. That same Soriana was carrying delicious organic applesauce at the best price we had come across at its going size while the other one in Providencia didn’t carry that product at all. Furthermore, the pricing on the organic coconut oil was better than what you can currently find at Jengibre, and Jengibre doesn’t carry applesauce. This is all to say that these supermarkets can still offer you something special that the smaller ecotiendas like Jengibre simply don’t offer (yet), but the larger supermarkets are extremely hit-or-miss and you’re probably not going to get the gamut of offerings or the personal experience you get at places like Jengibre and Ecotienda.
Like we said, we’re not trying to steer you away from any other businesses in the city. In fact, we encourage you to walk the same path of discovery we have and we want to reiterate that we still shop multiple places in order to stock our kitchens and maintain happy households. For example, we still buy our organic coffee at other places because Jengibre doesn’t carry that either. With that being said, though, we hope to simplify your path a bit, to make it a bit easier to begin walking, and we’ve found those ideal starting points to be Jengibre and Ecotienda. However, rest assured that we’ll continue to add to and refine our ecotienda resources as we visit more stores. What we have put down here thus far is by no means an exhaustive list, and it’s not meant to be.
If you have a suggestion regarding a brick-and-mortar store with organic or locally-sourced product offerings, please sound-off in the comments area and help us and our readers secure the healthy foodstuffs we all deserve and desire!