Bulk Food sections

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Super S
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Bulk Food sections

Post by Super S » 18 Feb 2007 02:37

I was wondering if any states or towns have health regulations that prohibit the sale of bulk foods altogether. WinCo stores have a large bulk food section, but a lot of chains have done away with it. I personally could see why...as I visit WinCo I frequently see people sticking their bare hands in the containers, as well as kids playing with them. I won't buy bulk foods for those reasons.
Last edited by Super S on 19 Feb 2007 01:23, edited 1 time in total.

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storewanderer
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Post by storewanderer » 18 Feb 2007 03:49

This concept is wildly popular in Canada.

Agree with your observations at WinCo (and other stores with the Brach's Candy). Not a good bet unless you use the scooper and mix the stuff up a bit and try to take stuff that is "buried." But even then, who touched the scooper, when did it last fall on the floor?
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Super S
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Post by Super S » 18 Feb 2007 14:43

storewanderer wrote:This concept is wildly popular in Canada.

Agree with your observations at WinCo (and other stores with the Brach's Candy). Not a good bet unless you use the scooper and mix the stuff up a bit and try to take stuff that is "buried." But even then, who touched the scooper, when did it last fall on the floor?
Stuff like Brach's (or any other kind of candy) as well as things individually wrapped are one thing. But for some things like raisins, cookies, peanuts, etc. with no wrapping or packaging, that is what I avoid altogether. A lot of those containers happen to be at "kid-reachable level" and I have seen people even throw garbage in them.

Two chains I recall having bulk foods at one time are Fred Meyer and selected Safeway stores. I can't speak of Safeway, as I rarely shop there, but Fred Meyer has eliminated all except a few items in their health food department.

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Dave
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Post by Dave » 18 Feb 2007 14:49

Some of the bulk food bins I've seen have hoppers where you put a bag under a chute to fill it up. That helps, but doesn't work for everything.

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Post by Groceteria » 19 Feb 2007 00:27

Please, can we somehow frame this is terms of history?

Per the original poster, he's interested in how health regulations may have eliminated bulk food sales in the past and over time, which wasn't readily apparent from the original post.

Sorry for any confusion. Now back to the topic...

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Post by Super S » 19 Feb 2007 01:20

To clarify my original post...

When I was growing up in the 1980s, I remember quite a few stores had bulk food departments which had a wide assortment of foods which were normally sold in packaging such as rice cakes, cereal, raisins, candy, nuts, snack chips and crackers, and others, as well as pet foods, and I also remember a store, possibly Waremart in the 1980s, that even sold things such as laundry detergent in the bulk food bins.

As I mentioned, WinCo (which is what Waremart evolved into) still carries bulk foods. However, I remember several other chains, including Fred Meyer, TOP Foods in Washington state, some Safeway stores, as well as some Albertsons stores, all at one time had bulk food sections. I guess what I was wondering is the main reason they disappeared. Was it due to tighter health regulations, was it due to poor sales and/or theft, or was it a combination of both?

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Post by Dave » 19 Feb 2007 11:14

I would think that one of the main reasons that selling items in bulk, other than things like nuts, candy, and coffee beans, is that consumers probably resisted buying stuff like detergent in a plastic bag. It's one thing to ask folks to provide thier own containers to take their purchases home in like some places do and quite another to ask them to provide containers at home to store their purchases in.

I would also think that it's a nightmare to price the items correctly without the cashier having to do a lot of price lookups.

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Post by tkaye » 19 Feb 2007 16:50

Super S wrote:As I mentioned, WinCo (which is what Waremart evolved into) still carries bulk foods. However, I remember several other chains, including Fred Meyer, TOP Foods in Washington state, some Safeway stores, as well as some Albertsons stores, all at one time had bulk food sections. I guess what I was wondering is the main reason they disappeared. Was it due to tighter health regulations, was it due to poor sales and/or theft, or was it a combination of both?
I just wanted to add that Top Food and Drug still has a very large bulk foods section.

Getting back to the historical perspective, I think bulk foods were, in large part, a response to inflation and the economic concerns of a lot of shoppers during the '70s and '80s. I see them as a sort of cousin to the generic labeling fad and the growth of "good quality" (not "finest quality") private labels like Scotch Buy. Interest in all these products seemed to die off around the same time.

Besides the health concerns mentioned, I'd also have to wonder about spillage and the possibility of rodents being attracted to the barrels and bins.

Does anyone remember the refillable soft drink set-up some stores had? Basically a wall full of buttons that you would use to select the flavor and then place the bottle underneath a nozzle to be filled. The plastic two-liter bottles could be returned to the store, where they would be "sanitized" and reused. I put sanitized in quotes since my family once became quite ill after drinking this soda and we concluded those bottles must have not been very clean after all. The "bulk" soft drinks were removed not long after that!

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Post by storewanderer » 19 Feb 2007 21:44

I remember that soda machine. Raleys had it, as did Scolaris, and called it "Pop Stop." Safeway may have had it, too. All of this in the late 80's at the latest.
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Post by rich » 19 Feb 2007 23:22

Bulk foods came several years after generics. They may have been a late response to the stagflation of the Carter, and early Reagan years, although many of the items like the dried fruit and yogurt covered raisins and nuts were artifacts of their time rather than popular, well-loved items that people wanted at a discount--I never quite got the appeal. Bulk foods stayed popular long after most of the generics had disappeared.

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Post by Super S » 20 Feb 2007 01:00

Waremart had that soft-drink setup at their Cole road store in Boise in the mid-80s. We tried it one time, it was ok for what it was, but it wasn't much cheaper than a regular 2-liter bottle of pop.

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Post by buckhead » 20 Feb 2007 02:17

tkaye wrote:
Super S wrote: Does anyone remember the refillable soft drink set-up some stores had?
The first time I saw one of those was at the Table Supply location on West Colonial Drive in Orlando, Florida in the early/mid 80's. The Table Supply name was resurrected for warehouse grocery stores by Winn-Dixie (there was supposed to be at least one in each division); these early stores carried a wide variety of bulk items, and had one of those soft drink dispenser setups. The thing was kept about a year; I lamented the loss because once it was gone I could no longer find a raspberry soft drink in town. I don't recall seeing the soft drink dispenser at the Table Supply store in Macon, Georgia or at any other retailer in Georgia or Florida.

About the same time, there also appeared a chain of smallish stores that sold exclusively in bulk, called Bulk Food Warehouse. The only one I shopped at and was familiar with was at Goldenrod Road and University Boulevard in Winter Park, Florida. They did NOT have any sort of beverage choices, but they had a great selection of grains, nuts, flours, and fancy cookies among other things. Liquids, e.g., honey, vinegar, cane syrup were also sold; you could bring your own container or purchase one of theirs. The store lasted a couple of years and then was gone. The concept/franchise name was owned at one time by Franchise Marketing of Toledo, Ohio. I don't know what the problem was, but they did not last long.

Except for items like candies and coffee beans, most regular supermarkets seem to have dropped bulk items. The exception seems to be at natural and health foods markets, food co-ops, and similar places in Georgia.

Besides the concerns mentioned previously, maybe there were too many cases of people like me getting and items and misusing it because it was improperly labeled or stored in the wrong section. I got some delicious bulk herb tea and used it at home. When I went back to get more, I discovered that the product I thought to be herb tea was instead potpouri that had been put in the same section with the teas.

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Post by Dave » 20 Feb 2007 10:24

I think that I'm hearing that sanitation and safety should have been a big factor in the demise of bulk food sections!

I don't even know if you can "sanitize" a 2 liter soda bottle for reuse. The mixup with the potpourri and herb tea could have been downright dangerous.

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Post by krogerclerk » 20 Feb 2007 17:08

Big Star seemed to go into bulk foods the greatest in the Atlanta area. Raisins, oatmeal, banana chips, trail mix, yogurt and carob covered pretzels and raisins, and candy-non pareils, choclate marshmallow chews, and jellybeans stick out. Other area supers tended to limit it to the banana chips, trail mix and yogut-carob covered raisins.

The Big Star locations that offered the bulk foods tended to be the larger, Grand Union format locations as opposed to the locations that were still in "Colonial" format. The took an upmarket approach that CUB and Kroger didn't in their more limited offerings. Oddly, from what I understand, CUB had incredibly large bulk food sections in Chicago and Minneapolis-St.Paul locations. The self-serve Brach's candy bins seem to be the last vestiges of bulk foods today.

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