Hong Kong’s retail precincts are bursting with a growing number of outlets that stock natural and organic products, from upmarket supermarkets through to small organic stores and vegan cafés that OWN visited when covering Natural Products Asia this year.

Hong Kong has a population of over 7.31 million. People often eat out twice a day and foodservice from hotels, restaurants, catering and cafes are seen as a significant opportunity for Hong Kong suppliers.

A survey conducted by independent organic certifier Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre and Hong Kong Baptist University in 2012 found that 60 percent of the 616 people surveyed had purchased organic food, 30 percent at least once a week and three per cent on a daily basis.

In the past four to five years increasing numbers of Hong Kong food businesses and restaurants are providing organic produce and ingredients, provided by hundreds of local organic farms. Challenges include non-certified organic produce and a high reliance on organic imports at 95 per cent.

Wellcome supermarkets (owned by Dairy Farm) operates ThreeSixty (near the Yau Ma Tei side of Kowloon), Oliver’s Delicatessen, and Marketplace by Jason’s, which stocked a limited number of organic lines in some categories in its Kowloon outlet.

The store with the best merchandising and presentation that OWN visited was the upmarket City’Super store at the IFC Centre, Central. The space featured an excellent layout with great departments, signage and lighting. The store covered every category of fresh food, groceries, food and beverages, including wine, cheese,

meat and seafood. Organic brands had reasonable skus in categories such as "free-from," drinks, pasta, Andean superfoods, coffee and tea, snack foods and chocolates, breakfast cereals, dairy and baby foods. City’Super has three retail concepts.

Oliver’s the Delicatessen in the Prince’s Building, 3rd level off Chater Road, Central was a good sized gourmet supermarket with large fresh foods and deli counters, grocery and wines, including traditional and fine foods through to organics from around the world. The displays included organic Andean superfoods such as flours, chocolates and snacks, breakfast cereals, tea and coffee, fresh produce and organic baby food.

ThreeSixty is promoted as a leading natural and organic retailer in Hong Kong with an offer that includes take-home and ready-to-eat food options, environmentally-friendly household products, and non-chemically based personal care.

ParknShop is Hong Kong’s largest food retailer with banners such as Great Food Hall, Gourmet Food Hall, Taste, Fusion, SU-PA-DE-PA, and International.

The Great Food Hall, at Pacific Place shopping centre off Queensway in the Admiralty district, is a huge, upmarket gourmet food hall with a supermarket in the basement which includes a food service café/dining area and kitchenware.

Larger than CitySuper, Great Food Hall offers over 46,000 professionally merchandised lines including fresh foods and packaged foods and beverages from around the world, traditional through to Asian, gourmet and organic foods and beverages, with goods ranging in some categories of organic packaged foods.

Other major stores include Aeon supermarkets, and Marks & Spencer food stores.

However, a constant theme in talking with suppliers was that several of the big supermarkets charged excessive shelf fees and did parallel importing that cut them out of doing business in certain categories.

Watsons, part of A.S. Watson Group, was the best of the pharmacy groups visited in Hong Kong. The firm has several stores offering small displays of natural and organic cosmetics and skin care brands from countries such as Germany, France, the US and Australia. The stores also carry organic and natural baby food brands from the UK, France and Germany, and a good range of health supplements.

A.S. Watson is the largest international health and beauty retailer in Asia and Europe, while its retail portfolio includes the ParknShop supermarkets.

The other big pharmacy chain, Mannings health & beauty stores, is also well established in Hong Kong but offers only a tiny amount of lines in natural and organic cosmetics and baby foods.

Specialist organic/vegan stores, cafes step up expansion

Hong Kong stores specialising in organic and vegan foods are expanding rapidly and planning more outlets, with several small groups of three to nine units leading the way.

Organic Plus has five retail stores. The one I visited on Caine Road, Soho, carried a great range of organic foods, health foods and cosmetics packed into a small space.

Nearby, on Caine Road, was Spice Box Organics, a larger outlet carrying South American certified organic superfoods and flours, pasta, spices, condiments and oils, organic teas and beverages, and natural skin care products. It also offered a small eat in/to go café operation with sit down benches. The company plans to add more cafes for its stores.

Green Common at Wan Chai on 222 Queens Road East (about 150 sqm) opened over a year ago and was the first store in the group of two stores that now also serves the restaurant and catering segment as a wholesaler. The store features a good layout and merchandising and ranges a wide selection of natural, organic, free-from, vegan and non-GMO products. Andean superfoods, pasta, breakfast cereals, snack foods, chocolates, teas and coffee, fresh produce, chilled foods to cook at home, and a small display for natural cosmetics were on display.

JustGreen organic ‘convenience stores’ have nine outlets in Hong Kong with a selection of over 10,000 organic and allergy-free foods, beverages, snacks, supplements and home and beauty products.

UK chain Pret A Manger, organic and natural food cafes catering for sit-down and to-go dining, has 15 stores spread across Hong Kong, often at major shopping centres. Belgian competitor Le Pain Quotidien also has several stand-alone and shopping centre café/restaurants.

Home Eat to Live is an impressive two-story organic and vegan café/restaurant operation in the Nexus building on 77 Des Vouex Road, Central with two spacious floors and plenty of seating. An extensive sit-down or food-to-go menu included vegan, raw, dairy and gluten-free and vegetarian meals, snacks, soups, juices, shakes, and tea and coffee. A second outlet in Kowloon is scheduled to open later this year.

Ovo café at Wan Chai, upstairs on a corner of Queens Road East, is a light-filled café that also sells garden products. Ovo café offers sit-down or to-go dining and a menu such as vegetarian foods and salads, soups, juices, desserts, tea and coffee. Ovo is also on the first floor of 173 Des Vouex Road, Central, alongside Green Common organic store.

 MANA! is Hong Kong’s popular vegan and “fast, slow food chain” with three stores in the Central and Sheung Wan areas of Hong Island. The store I visited at 97 Wellington Street, Central had sit-down dining mainly on benches and a large communal table with a pricier but good menu including vegan, raw and cooked dishes, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and coffee.