Spain is one of the top producers of organic fruits and vegetables in Europe, with the most extensive area dedicated to organic agriculture. Most of that production is still exported to other countries of the EU, where the consumption of Bioproducts is more extended. Nevertheless, organic food is widely available almost anywhere in the country. The best option to buy organic food in Spain depends mainly on your lifestyle, your priorities, and your budget.
If you have time to spare, and social interaction is on the sunny side of your scale, then joining a consumer group (grupo de consumo) is an excellent way to buy organic food in Spain. It is fun, it is highly interactive, and one of the most economical options to lead a healthy life style in Spain.
What are consumer groups ( grupos de consumo) ?
Consumer groups are organized groups of people who buy organic products together. Usually, consumer groups buy products of proximity through short food supply chains ie, farmers and producers nearby.
Advantages of buying your food through consumer groups
- Consumer groups are considered one of the best options to buy organic food in Spain for a reasonable price. Buying in bulk for larger groups of people allows for acquiring food in larger quantities thus getting better deals from the producer, and optimizing transportation costs. While a vegetable that you buy in a store goes from the farmer to a wholesaler, to a distributor, then a retailer. In a consumer group your purchase comes directly from the producer which allows producers to have a fair price for their production while the consumer benefits from a better price since all the intermediary margins are knocked our of the process.
- Traceability. By buying through consumer groups you are allowed to have full knowledge of the origin of the products since the group is supplied by known farmers who periodically supply them with their products. In addition, many of these groups organize visits to the farmers’ orchards to learn first-hand how the products they consume are grown.
- This leads us to yet another advantage: You end up learning a lot about the food you consume, how its produced, the best season to consume it, and where it is harvested or prepared.
- Fresh products are even fresher. Proximity and direct relationship between consumers and producers in consumer groups are very important. The short circuit and the fact that the food comes directly from the orchard or farm guarantees its freshness.
- Seasonal: When you buy locally and directly from the producers you start buying seasonal, which means the fresh produce has matured properly and did not endure long trips across the ocean or months in controlled environments to stretch its shelf life beyond its natural season. I kindly invite you to taste a Spanish orange in winter ( its natural season) and another one in July.
- Environmental and economical sustainability. A short food supply chain, buying from small producers, and the proximity of the source to the buyer are definitely better for the environment and local economy.
- Social integration: Being part of a consumer group plunges you quickly into a social circle where you are really soon to find friends. The responsibilities in a consumer group are shared between its members. Activities like weighing the fruits, making the purchases, coordinating between the different members, looking for new producers, or even organizing visits to producers are distributed between the members of the group.
- Enriching: Shopping as part of a group helps you share experiences, tips, recipes, and other information that would help anyone in their daily life. Your consumption of healthy organic food might expand, and so might your healthy lifestyle.
After goods are received by consumer groups, they are usually weighed and distributed among the members in a joint effort where everybody participates or take turns on the different tasks.
Cons of buying your organic food through consumer groups.
Whether or not consumer groups ( grupos de consumo) is the best option to buy organic food in Spain for you. Depends on your personal preferences, life style, and time availability. Some points to take into account before choosing to make your purchases through consumer groups are:
- It is definitely more time-consuming. Having to coordinate between different members through the whole process, and sharing the different responsibilities might be really cool if you have some time to spare. But if you have a busy schedule then it might be a little bit more complicated to fit.
- Less flexible: most of the groups have deadlines for placing your order, and a specific day for picking up your share of the purchase. So if that doesn´t fit within your schedule then buying your organic food through consumer groups is not for you. In addition, the decision of what can be bought through the group is to be approved by the group, so it might not guarantee that you would be able to get all that´s on your organic wish list.
- Seasonal: We are used to finding all kinds of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. While I personally consider consuming fruits and vegetables in their season an advantage, it might be considered very limiting by some.
- Not always available: There are hundreds of consumer groups all over Spain. But you have to check whether there is one in your area. In the town where I live now there are none nearby, but we still get to buy from local farmers and enjoy the crops our fruit trees give us.
How to find a consumer group
There are many directories of consumer groups all over Spain. The problem is that some of the entries are outdated, so some of the groups listed no longer exist and other new ones are not included. I would very much like to prepare on in Spain is Yummy to make your life a bit more easy.
For the time being, the easiest way to check is to look it up in your browser. Take it as an opportunity to practice some Spanish, with the word of the day being ( Grupo de consumo), so you type the name of your town and Grupo de consumo, then check the results.
Other options to buy organic food in Spain
Of course, joining a consumer group is not the only option to buy organic food in Spain you still have other channels to do your shopping such as organic local shops, hypermarkets, and supermarkets where there´s almost always a section of organic products, and then you can always buy organic food in Spain online either in specialized stores or directly from the producers.
Some towns organize organic markets once a week, so ask the locals or search online for a nother Spanish word that is ecomercado