The Business Times : Farm-fresh, allergen-free Australian produce
They may be small but independent grocery stores are reaping the rewards of giving consumers greater variety by bringing in lesser-known, artisanal brands.
29 Binjai Park
Opening hours: Daily from 9.30am to 8pm, except Thursdays, from 9.30am to 4pm
LIKE most parents, Wendy Foo and Sebastian Chia only want the best for their children. Their eldest son, Ryan, nine, is allergic to dairy, gluten, nuts, soy, eggs and yeast. As doting parents, the Chias would fly to Australia every three months to personally source for organic meat and gluten-free produce directly from farms and farmers’ markets.
The Chias have a younger son, three, who does not have any food intolerances. “”We used to carry back about 20kg of meat for our personal consumption during each trip,”” says Ms Foo. “”It didn’t make sense to keep flying to Perth to stock our pantry and fridge, and our friends in Singapore kept asking us to bring more for them.””
The couple decided to bring farm produce to Singapore instead, since after numerous trips, they had developed relationships with several small batch specialist producers in Western Australia. It took them two years to get the import licensing required, and to put together a meat-handling facility at the back of the store.
Ms Foo says there are two kinds of shoppers who come to the store. The first are those that come for the organic meats, while the other group comes for the gluten-free products.
Ryan’s Grocery imports grass-fed certified organic Blackwood Valley Beef from Western Australia by the carcass which is then sectioned into specific cuts. Mr Chia says that by importing the whole carcass, the store is able to offer all cuts of meats including brisket and ribs. They also offer organic beef cheek, tongue and oxtail.
Blackwood Valley cattle are raised in a grass-fed, low stress natural herd environment on the farm, free of any artificial growth hormones and antibiotics. Besides beef, the store also recently introduced a range of Arcadian Organic lamb and beef and free-range Borrowdale pork.
Borrowdale Pork from Queensland is hormone- and antibiotic-free, and while Arcadian organic lamb is grass-fed and free-range. Ryan’s Grocery is believed to be the first in Singapore to offer organic lamb.
In addition to this, Ryan’s Grocery offers hormone- and antibiotic-free, free-range chickens. Even the chicken schnitzel, which is made on-site, is packed using gluten-free breadcrumbs.
Each Thursday, a range of gluten-free sausages are made at the store. These sausages, such as the Bush Tomato and Pepper Berry Sausages and the Lemon and Oregano Lamb Sausages are also free of sulphates, nitrates and preservatives.
On the gluten-free product front, Ryan’s Grocery has everything from pasta, to biscuits, sauces and condiments. The brands include Doves Farm Brown Rice, Ceres Organic Quinoa and Olive Green Organics Amaranth & Rice and Bodhi’s Bakery. Ryan’s also carries an exclusive range of items such as gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free nut butters from Health Nut Foods, Colmena Pure Jarrah Honey, cold-pressed, unfiltered Wambyn Organic Olive Oil, and a range of truffle oils, butters, salsas and aioli from Great Southern Truffles.
Ms Foo says it wasn’t always easy for them to bring in certain brands and items. “”Some producers feel that the Singapore market is too small, hence they didn’t want to work with us,”” she says. But with persistence, such as regular visits to the farms and talking with producers, she has managed to get them onboard. She declares that the products in the store are either organic, preservative or gluten-free.
Besides going to the farmers’ markets to see new producers, the couple also regularly attend food expos, such as the Gluten Free and Organic Shows.
“”Eating well can be difficult and we faced many challenges when feeding our son. Therefore, we wanted to create an outlet to support our local community of adults and children with food intolerances and dietary challenges,”” says Ms Foo.”