In 2012, a little grocery store on Manor Road was drawing national attention for what it didn’t have.
Ingredients was grabbing headlines far and wide for months before it opened thanks to a wild idea: It would become one of the country’s first “zero-waste” or “packaging-free” grocery stores.
In reality, hardly anything is actually zero-waste or without packaging. Customers could buy local produce, meat and dairy, but all the meat and dairy — as well as plenty of other products on the shelves — were sold in traditional packaging. The store also featured a bulk section, where you could fill Mason jars and other reusable containers will dried grains, legumes, sugar and flour.
With ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch and snack options, as well as beer and kombucha on tap, Ingredients became a neighborhood hangout, a place where families could get together after work so the kids could play in the garden and where professionals could grab a coffee meeting during the day.
More than five years after it opened, however, Ingredients is closing its doors today, the owners announced on Facebook earlier this week.
Well folks, it’s not easy being green. After over 5 years on Manor Road, we will be closing our doors for the final time this Friday, April 27th.
To be honest, we’re heartbroken. But don’t lose heart. For over five years, we have diverted waste from landfills, supported local growers and artisans, brought people together and helped Cherrywood live a little bit healthier. Each and every one of you has been a part of that.
The zero waste movement is still GROWING. Since we came on the scene as the nation’s first zero waste grocery store, many more have sprung up all over the country. We must all continue to choose and demand local, sustainably sourced, ethically manufactured and responsibly (un)packaged products. It’s not possible for this country, or this planet, to continue with business as usual for long. The fight continues – we must work hard to create a better future, together.
And watch this space! We can’t say for certain what comes next for our little slice of heaven on Manor Road, but we’re excited for the possibilities.
We love you, Austin. And we love you, zero wasters the world over. Thank you for being a part of this beautiful experiment with us. And thank you for the memories.
It’s rare that Consumer Reports and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for customers to completely avoid a product.
The warnings are usually tied to a specific brand, manufacturing date or region of origin, but not this week. Today, health officials expanded their concerns about E. coli-contaminated lettuce to include heads of lettuce, not just bags.
Although the most recent round of contaminated lettuce is thought to have originated in Arizona, so many bags of lettuce and heads of lettuce do not have origin information that they are now recommending that everyone avoid lettuce. (This outbreak appears unrelated to the one last fall and in January that sickened several dozen people in Canada.)
More than 60 people in 16 states have been sickened by eating lettuce in the past month, which prompted calls to avoid bagged lettuce specifically from Arizona. No Texans have been affected and no deaths have been reported, but the health effects of this particular strain seem to be particularly nasty, which is part of the reason behind the expanded warning. An H-E-B spokesperson said on Friday afternoon that they “do not source romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona, so we’re clear.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that new information about the illnesses in Alaska led them to expand a warning beyond chopped romaine to include any type of romaine lettuce, including whole heads and hearts of romaine.
Although the exact source hasn’t been identified, federal health officials have said information indicates the contaminated lettuce was grown in the Yuma, Ariz., area. But consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought romaine at home, including in salads and salad mixes, should throw it away immediately if they don’t know its specific source, officials said — even if some had already been eaten with no ill effects.
As with most outbreaks, this one involves the industrial food supply chain. If you buy lettuce directly from the source, perhaps at a farmers market or in your own backyard, proceed as usual. Just don’t forget to wash the lettuce. Even small farms (and your garden) can have nasty bacteria you don’t want to consume.
Walmart topped the list with a B, thanks to its work to standardize expiration labels into two categories: “Best if Used By” for nonperishable products, and “Use By” for food that can spoil. In an interview with NPR, Jordan Figueiredo, who runs the Center for Biological Diversity’s “Ugly” Fruit and Veg Campaign, said that Walmart has also made small changes that are adding up, such as replacing a single broken egg without having to throw away the entire carton.
Figueiredo also said of the chains such as Whole Foods that scored lower that “it’s not necessarily that they’re not trying to reduce food waste, it’s that they’re not reporting what they’re doing. But if they’re not reporting that data, then we have no idea how effective these programs are. And something that’s just done here or there isn’t really meaningful.”
The companies were graded “based on their efforts to address the problem, from tracking and publicly reporting data to initiatives such as selling ‘ugly’ produce,” and Whole Foods seemed to take the biggest hit from not publicly reporting data about how much food ends up in the trash.
Whole Foods has more zero-waste certified stores than any other certified company, but “the company lacks any clear commitment to food-waste reduction and provides no data on the amount of food wasted, recovered or recycled.”
“If Whole Foods is serious about sustainability, it needs to be honest about the amount of food it wastes,” said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center. “Until the company gets transparent and makes measurable commitments, its efforts are merely lip service.”
Although the company has food donation and recycling programs as well as initiatives in some stores to repurpose “ugly” produce, the report recommended that Whole Foods “institute food-waste reduction practices in its supply chain and across all stores to prevent excess, wasteful production before it happens.”
Nine out of America’s 10 largest grocery companies fail to publicly report their total volume of food waste. Ahold Delhaize was the only company that publicly reported its total food-waste volume.
The four companies that earned a C grade or higher overall were the only ones with specific food-waste reduction commitments. Kroger leads the way with a commitment of zero food waste by 2025.
Four of the 10 companies have no “imperfect-produce initiatives,” which can prevent the waste of fruits and vegetables considered too “imperfect” for retail sale.
Walmart was the only company with a variety of clear in-store efforts to reduce food waste, such as improving store fixtures, standardizing date labels, and educating associates and shoppers.
All 10 of the companies have food-donation programs, with the majority operating company-wide. ALDI was the only company that did not report a food-recycling program (e.g., composting or a program to reuse unsold food as animal feed or for other industrial uses).
If you’re a backpacker, you know you can’t live on peanut butter crackers alone.
Pam LeBlanc is the resident backpacking camper in the features department. I’m an avid car camper, which means I usually have a food box *and* a cooler to cook from while I’m outdoors.
But if you are eating breakfast, lunch and dinner on a trail or anywhere you have limited access to cooking tools and supplies, which is what Pam did during her 15-day hike on the John Muir Trail, you will likely pack trail meals. These are usually dehydrated meals that only need hot water to “cook.” One of the leading companies in this space is Austin’s Packit Gourmet.
This month, the company, which started in 2008 and is still based off Fitzhugh Road, released a new type of packaging that allows you to pour the hot water directly into the bag, which makes it more functional when you’re on a trail. Another benefit of the new packaging is that they retain heat better than a bowl, so your food will stay hot. The square-shaped bags are color-coded by type of meal with easy to read instructions.
At first glance, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough might seem to be targeting the cookie dough ice cream fans, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that it’s the people who love peanut butter cookies and chocolate — aka people who also love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — who will be seeking out this flavor.
The Brenham-based ice creamery often releases limited edition flavors, which sometimes sell out quickly. This flavor is available in 1/2 gallon and pint sizes, and it’s one of dozens of flavors you can order ($129 for four 1/2 gallons). to have shipped anywhere in the U.S. for You can’t place the order online, but you can call 979-836-7977 to find out more.
Remember that rotisserie chicken taste test we did in January? For my Facebook livestream video earlier this week, I took many of your suggestions to include Sam’s Club, Walmart and Randalls in their own taste test with Fiesta, which won the previous round.
If you missed the original taste test, we compared rotisserie chickens from six local stores — H-E-B, Central Market, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Costco and Fiesta — and the Fiesta chicken was the unanimous winner. I knew we wouldn’t be able to include every chicken in that original taste test, but six chickens were plenty to taste at once.
After the story and video published, I heard from lots of readers who love the rotisserie chickens from Sam’s Club, Walmart and Randalls, so I decided to host another showdown between those three and the previous winner. This time, the results weren’t so clear. Many tasters like the Sam’s Club chicken as much as the Fiesta chicken, but the Walmart and Randalls birds couldn’t match the other competitors in taste or texture.
The only issue with Sam’s Club is that you have to have a membership to the buy the chicken, which costs $45 per year. The company does allow you to get a free day pass to shop in the store, but you have to pay 10 percent extra on whatever you buy. As with Costco’s chicken, the Sam’s Club chicken was a full pound larger than the others and it was about two dollars less.
I’d still love to hear about your favorite ready-to-eat grocery foods, including rotisserie chickens! Leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com.
After H-Mart opened a few weeks ago, I mentioned that a second national grocer, 99 Ranch Market, would be opening in March.
Earlier this week, I visited the newly opened store to see how it compares to H-Mart and the other Asian grocery options already here. The 33,090-square-feet supermarket at 6929 Airport Blvd. in North Austin is “the new flagship store of the Lone Star State,” according to 99 Ranch Market’s website, its 47th store in the nation and the sixth store in Texas.
That’s a smaller space than H-Mart, but not even H-Mart can compare to MT Supermarket on North Lamar Boulevard, which remains the largest Asian grocery store in Central Texas. The new 99 Ranch Market is across the street from Han Yang, another prominent Asian grocery store that has been locally owned for more than 20 years. Hana World Market on Parmer Lane has been open since 2011 and is another great option for a locally owned Asian supermarket.
As the Austin Chronicle pointed out in a recent story, the locally owned stores, not to mention the dozens of smaller shops, including Asahi Imports on Burnet Road, are going to face serious competition from these national chains, but as several Austinites have pointed out when H-Mart opened, you know a city has made it when both of the country’s biggest national Asian grocers open within weeks of each other.
Although the store is technically still in the soft opening stage this week until its grand opening festivities this weekend, the store had piles of shining produce, tanks filled with live fish and seafood, shelves lined with both international and domestic goods and plenty of — but not too many — shoppers.
When you start shopping, you’ll notice the bar of frozen fish balls, the freezers fully of thinly sliced meats and the brightly colored fish on ice, but the store feels more like the other options that we already have here. Not that it’s not a welcome addition to Austin. A friend texted this morning to sing 99 Ranch Market’s praise for having a good selection “without being completely overwhelming.”
In the inner aisles, you’ll find find typically “American” products alongside the Asian products, such as this selection of soy milk just a few doors down from cow’s milk, or the shelves of Lucky Charms and Cheerios or Campbell’s soup next to their international counterparts.
H-Mart has been jam-packed since it opened, and though this weekend’s grand opening will surely be crowded, I don’t get the sense that we’ll see quite the same crowds at 99 Ranch Market. The food court is much smaller, with only one hot food option — a very basic Chinese buffet with dim sum on the day I went — and a fruit/smoothie/boba tea counter. They do sell Peking duck in the food court, which I have only seen hanging at First Chinese Barbecue and other restaurants like that.
The best part of my shopping trip on Monday was meeting a sweet Taiwanese couple who wanted to explain how to use some of the ingredients I was inspecting. I didn’t end up with one of those black silky chickens, but I did some home with frozen fish, fish balls and hotpot soup mix to try my hand at some new dishes.
What do you think of the new 99 Ranch Market? How does it compare to your other favorite local stores? Leave your comments below!
On Wednesday morning, my inbox and voicemail at work started to blow up.
Here’s a sampling:
I just read your article on rotisserie chicken. Is there any reason you omitted Randalls? I feel that most articles lean toward HEB, Central Market and Whole Foods. Just wanted to express that there are other stores in Central Texas.
Read with interest your article on tastiest chickens this morning. So sorry you did not include Randall’s in your appearance, price, and taste test. They are the best ones and we have tried all the others except Fiesta. A couple of undercooked chickens from Central Market. We enjoy the Randall’s chicken’s on a weekly basis.
There was this voicemail that implied I have it out for Sam Walton:
I just read your article that you wrote about rotisserie chicken. It’s funny that I’ve eaten every one that you bought, but the best one in town is at Sam’s and you didn’t even bother to include it. You didn’t include Walmart either. Is that because you have a problem with Walmart and Sam’s? It’s just not right.
I love hearing from readers, even if they don’t like what they see in the food section, but I thought I’d address this question with a follow-up to explain what I’ve been telling each of these readers: I don’t have it out for Randalls, Sam’s Club and Walmart. I also missed Trader Joe’s and Wheatsville. I don’t think Aldi and Natural Grocers carry rotisserie chickens, but you can start to see where I’m going: There are a lot of stores in Austin, so many that it’s hard to get to them all in one day.
It took two hours to buy five of the chickens that we tested, and one of them came from a co-worker who has a Costco membership. I shop frequently enough at the Walmart near my house to know that it’s not a place where people pop in to buy a rotisserie chicken on the way home from work. I don’t have a Sam’s Club membership, but not because I have it out for Mr. Walton. I just don’t buy enough bulk items to require a club membership anywhere.
(To further persuade you that I don’t hate Walmart: I am a huge fan of Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, Ark., whose admission is always free, thanks to Walmart. We’ve been nearly half a dozen times since it opened in 2011.)
However, I do wish I’d stopped by Randalls when I was at Central Market on Westgate on the day of the taste test. That reader is right: I don’t cover Randalls enough. I do tend to lean toward HEB, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts and the other stores in my coverage. I try to get to Randalls now and then, but they aren’t leaders in grocery innovation, they don’t carry many local food products and they aren’t rolling out new house brand products in response to the food trends that I cover, so shopping there doesn’t yield very many story ideas.
On a personal note, I find the prices higher at Randalls than other grocery stores, so I’m less inclined to do my own shopping there, but I will try to make more professional visits, including to try the rotisserie chicken that another caller swears is the best.
What other chickens did I miss? Have you tried the Fiesta chicken see we broadcast our taste test? I’ve love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In 2016, the Texas Pie Company in Kyle won $25,000 for these frozen pie dough pucks. Two years later, the city is trying to brand itself the Pie Capital of Texas thanks to owner Julie Albertson’s success with her bakery and spin-off grocery store product.
Last year’s overall winners were Skull & Cakebones, the company founded in Austin almost five years ago by Sascha Biesi and Yauss Berenji, who took home $25,000 for their vegan desserts in a jar.
As a judge at the 2017 contest, I tasted a barbecue sauce that raised money for veterans’ groups, a pecan cake from a family in Bertram and the famous tomatillo sauce from Mi Tierra in San Antonio. These dips, drinks, snacks, sauces, frozen meals and fresh ideas come from everyday Texans who started with a wild food idea.
You might remember they had a Super Bowl commercial about it.
This year’s fifth annual competition is open to applicants through March 18, and if you’re curious about the process, you can sign up to attend an event on Tuesday at the Sustainable Food Center, 2921 E. 17th St. At 2:30 p.m. Feb. 27, H-E-B officials will be on hand to answer questions from local business owners and enterprising entrepreneurs who want to know more about the $70,000 in prize money and process of getting on the stores’ inventory list.
The event is free, but attendees are asked to register here. To officially enter the Quest for Texas Best contest or learn more about it, go to heb.com/quest.
If you’ve ever lived in Houston or New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, you know what a big deal this is to have two of the country’s biggest and best-known Asian grocers opening within a month of each other.
“When H Mart comes to town, that’s when you know your city has graduated to the big leagues of Asian groceries,” Peter Tsai said on Instagram.
“Grocery shopping game changer for sure,” is how @theburgervore put it. “This is even nicer than the one in Houston or Dallas!”
Having been to both a 99 Ranch Market and Austin’s new H-Mart within the past week, I can concur: These are the biggest grocery openings since Whole Foods’ 365 or even when Trader Joe’s first opened in Central Texas in 2013.
On Friday, when I was visiting family in California, I went to a 99 Ranch Market in San Diego and bought mochi, thin slices of pork belly and pineapple drinking vinegar. On Monday, I shopped at H-Mart at 11301 Lakeline Blvd. in Northwest Austin for sashimi, kimchi, miso and baby octopus. These were my first visits to both of these chains, but from what I’m hearing on social media, my first impression aligns with what longtime shoppers already know: These grocery chains mean serious business.
They cater first and foremost to shoppers with cultural roots in the nearly 50 countries that make up Asia, but they know that there are millions of shoppers like me who didn’t grow up eating and cooking very much authentic Asian food but are increasingly familiar with the ingredients and culinary styles. Both stores have figured out how to sell thousands of products to people along all ends of this spectrum, not dumbing down the marketing materials or store presentation to cater to non-Asians while also making the shopping experience inclusive enough to be enjoyable to someone who has never shopped in an international market before.
The first Austin location of 99 Ranch Market doesn’t open until March 3, but this new H-Mart is slick. It’s housed in a huge, 68,670-square-foot space that used to be a Sports Authority and Bed Bath & Beyond. The owners painted the ceiling black so it doesn’t look so cavernous, and each section is well labeled to help shoppers sort through the products. The aisles are compact with end caps selling the hottest items, from canned lattes to frozen fish balls.
The store has a different vibe than the 100,000-square-foot MT Supermarket over on North Lamar, which opened in 1984 and will continue to maintain the title of “Austin’s largest Asian store,” but it’s more similar to Hana World Market on Parmer Lane or Han Yang on Airport Boulevard, two large Korean markets that some longtime shoppers, including Tsai, say are likely already feeling the pressure to compete with H-Mart. Hana World Market opened in 2011, and Han Yang has been around since the mid 1990s.
One of the biggest draws to both Hana World Market and H-Mart are the food courts, where you can grab a bite to eat. The Austin location of H-Mart is home of the company’s first Market Eatery concept, where you’ll find sushi, Korean barbecue and fried chicken, Taiwanese shaved ice, a Tous Les Jours bakery, as well as live music and a craft beer bar. You’ll also find a cosmetic counter and a place to buy window treatments, including blinds and curtains.
North Austin was an obvious location for both new supermarkets, but as a resident of South Austin who lives not too far from several Korean churches and often laments the lack of Asian and Middle Eastern markets south of Lady Bird Lake, I asked the company if South Austin was on their radar for a possible second location.
“We explored all options when looking for a location. However, this specific location [in North Austin] gave us the best opportunity to create a huge, redesigned H-Mart and 25,000 square feet for the Market Eatery,” Stacey Kwon, president of H-Mart and daughter of the chain’s founder and CEO Il Yeon Kwon, said in an email. “Right now, we are focusing our efforts on making this location have one of the best and most customer-oriented experiences, so we are devoting 100 percent of our attention to that. But, that said, we certainly see the potential for expansion in Austin and are excited to be a part of the community.”
To take you on a virtual tour of the space, here are ten things to look out for when you get there:
Dragonfruit greet you at the door. Turmeric, purple potatoes, pomelos tease your cart. Greens, green onions, carrots line the wall.
2. Ceramic nonstick cooking pans, called Eco-Tech Pots, take up much of the kitchen section, but you’ll also find all the fun bowls, tea sets and kawaii kid stuff you’d expect at an Asian houseware store.
3. You won’t find quite as many live fish tanks as you’ll find at MT Supermarket, but they do have fish swimming in beautiful blue tanks in the back corner of the store. Most of the shoppers were buying frozen and fresh fish, shellfish and octopus by the pound from fishmongers stationed in the middle of two rows of seafood.
4. Also in the seafood section, you’ll find sashimi-grade sushi to make your own poke, sashimi or nigiri. You can find the whole filets so you can practice cutting it at home, or you can buy a pick tray of sushi that looks fresher than any other you’ve seen at a grocery store.
5. Whole Foods’ 365 store just up U.S. 183 wins the mochi game with its mochi bar, but H-Mart has the same self-serve setup with more than a dozen kinds of frozen fish balls, which can be fried, simmered, steamed or sauteed.
6. Few grocery stores, if any, sell dry aged prime T-bones and ribeyes, especially those that the butcher will slice fresh for you, but you’ll find both at H Mart. Also in the meat section, you’ll find rolled-up frozen meats, thinly sliced, ready for Vietnamese pho or the Japanese hotpot called shabu-shabu, as well as slightly thicker cuts for Korean barbecue.
9. The food court is hoppin’, and my gut tells me it will be for some time. With more than half a dozen eateries, including Tous les Jours bakery, SnoMo shaved ice, a Korean fried chicken place and a craft beer bar, it’ll compete with just about every other lunch option in the area.
10. The crowds will be thick for weeks to come, but this store is a great place to take your kids. When we go to international markets, I always let mine pick out products that appeal to them, even if it’s a candy sushi-making kit or a $4 dragonfruit. For dinner last night, they made the “sushi” while I assembled poke bowls. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get them to try the octopus that’ll be on the menu tonight, but they are already asking when we’re going back to H-Mart.