“ Realfoods is an online store selling wholefoods, vegetarian and allergy friendly foods. „
As a vegetarian I cook and eat a lot of wholefoods, and since our town of Chelmsford lost all of its independent health food stores, due to high rents and competition from major supermarkets, I have used mail order companies to supply most of my nuts, seeds and ingredients for the meals I make all through the week.
When one of my daughters moved to Edinburgh she told me about a company called Real Foods, and when I looked them up online I was delighted to discover that they offer a mail order service. They have two shops in Edinburgh, and are Scotland's largest wholefoods retailer. For anyone who loves natural foods shops, these are an Aladdin's cave packed full of unusual and different goods reflecting different cultures, and allowing a forum for those devoted to sustainable growing to display their produce. This review is of the website, not the shop which I will review at another date, but it is interesting and reassuring to know that behind this webpage is a well stocked shop not just a warehouse on an industrial estate.
The company opened its first store in Edinburgh in 1975, and now stocks 10,000 organic and wholefood lines. Their aim is to complement the global products they stock with locally sourced ingredients, increasing sustainability and valuing the contribution made by local growers and suppliers.
The website has a fantastic homepage which is a reference document for all aspects of healthy living. There are items reflecting every detail of their business from online access to their free magazine, through to shop opening times, recipe of the week, ideas for seasonal eating, and links to articles on health and nutrition. The pages are so useful that I will often spend ages browsing through them before clicking through to the online shop. I have made many of the recipes they feature, and have learnt so much from them about ingredients and about following a wholefood lifestyle. Their information has depth to it, especially in the health section, and the detail they give for supplements for example is superb.
Access to the online shop is only a click away, and for the foreseeable future all orders are delivered post free. This is absolutely unique within this market as usually retailers have to charge postage for orders which do not reach a price limit. I do not know how long this will be possible due to rising fuel and transportation costs, but for the moment it represents excellent value for money.
The online shop is clearly laid out and there are sections which reflect all aspects of choice from grocery and super foods, through to health and beauty, and even chocolate has its own section. Clicking on these groups will take you through to each section and its subgroups, which are extensive and cover every product you can imagine.
What I really like about this company is their presentation. The website itself is so clear and easy to use, and is a showcase for them. It is also presented with honesty and reflects the reality of presenting such a wide choice. Some of the items have a 7 days mark next to them. What this means is that they will order them especially for you so you will have to wait about a week for them to be in stock and subsequently delivered. This is not true for staples such as oats and nuts, but more unusual items will need a little patience.
If they have any problem with your order you will receive a call or an email. This is normally if an item is out of stock at their suppliers, and they are seeking clarification from you as how to proceed. I have only had this happen once, and the girl I spoke to was lovely and I only needed to wait a few days longer.
The ability to purchase in bulk exists on the website, and this is something that I do on a regular basis, particularly with nuts and items that I use a lot. This represents excellent value for money and undercuts many of the high street retailers. In addition the company has promotions - for example this week it is on pinhead oatmeal to reflect their recipe of the week which is for Scottish Oatcakes.
It is possible to do an advanced search on the website which allows you to highlight foods which suit dietary types, or to search for specific items, and this runs quickly and will present the items within moments.
Another facility that I really value is the ability to purchase gift vouchers. I took delight when my son bought my daughter a small gift voucher for Christmas, which allowed her to purchase a treat or two from the store in Edinburgh. These gift vouchers can be ordered online, and sent to either the recipient or to the purchaser, and can be used online or in the stores.
All of the orders I have received have been packed with great care and have been accurately collated with the charges exactly as expected. The quality of the items has been superb, especially with regard to the nuts which have been fresh and delicious. I have always been kept fully informed by email as to the order progress and the entire process from ordering through to delivery has been faultless on every occasion. They use Royal Mail to deliver, and even in the heavy snow we had in December my orders arrived promptly and in perfect condition.
Ordering is secure and they accept all the usual payment types, but they do not debit your account until the goods are actually shipped, so if they have a delay on them for the 7 days I mentioned, you will not be charged until they are in stock. This is clearly explained on the site and the company adhere to what they promise.
I think another attribute this website has lies in its ability to educate and to introduce. By that I mean it presents more unusual ingredients, often backing them up with their history and production methods, and the all important recipe completes the picture, so that you don't end up with a packet of something with no idea how to cook or to use it. In fact the recipe section is superb and can be accessed from the home page, and is a collection of everything from breakfast to dinner and much more besides. I use this section a lot as it helps me to compile lists of ingredients which I can then add to my order.
I do use other online wholfood companies but this is my favourite, I love everything about it and with free delivery you really can't go wrong.