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Edel and Ali of Óir Tonics

Alan McGrath
National Organiser, Health Stores Ireland

The days when we face hill climbs with the wind in our faces and weight on our backs are the days we need some light shone on our paths.

We can use the services of a life or business coach, but we have some inspirational colleagues in the trade and dipping in and out of their social media platforms can help drive us on as we tap into their seemingly boundless energy. We can gather as a tribe and tap into the collective spirit to riff off the mutual appreciation and the singular successes of those within our orbit.

Are you living the dream?

Back in 2022 Edel Breslin, who was working at The Health Connection in Ennis, approached the organisers of the first Shannon gathering and asked if she could introduce her new seaweed-based tonic to retailers. It was too late for an official table slot, but Edel was more than happy to take to the room and network the floor with her innovative new product, and with the help of her old boss Olivia, she mingled with retailers offering tastings and espousing the proven virtues of Moss Boss Tonic.

Roll on 12 months and Edel proudly returned to the same venue, only this time with an impressively merchandised stand, a full-time employee of her own and news of a new manufacturing unit to meet growing demand and an expanding product range. Edel is certainly living the dream and independent Irish health food retailers are starring players.

Anything is possible when you're feeling good. Darker skies, global lows, state controls and bumpy roads are unstoppable, so getting a happy tune into your head will help drive you on and it will certainly make the pulling on of the mandatory shop face a bit more achievable.

You can't invent positive thoughts, but you can certainly dwell far too long on the negative ones. When we look at what we are doing as part of a collective – adding diversity, choice and colour to a high street or shopping centre, supporting innovation and local producers and empowering customers to make positive health choices, we have plenty to sing about.

You wouldn't get this atmosphere with a bunch of pharmacists. Controversial? Well, the rattle and hum that emanates from a hall when health food retailers gather with sectoral partners is different to those of other sectors, and it's not just me saying that. Perhaps it's that we don't take ourselves too seriously or maybe it's because we are the shaggy cardigan crew compared to the tunics and white coat brigade, but in any case, it makes for better engagement and more open dialogue.

We have a lot to be proud of and we should look with confidence to the months and years ahead. We have some noted successful successions, new shop openings and branch expansions to indicate confidence in the Irish health food sector. Our dedicated suppliers seem happy, and we are continuing to build new concepts and brands.

Let's not run down a dream.

Can you guess what Alan was listening to on loop while he wrote this excellent article? Answer to [email protected]

Health Stores Ireland is the professional trade association representing more than 110 independent health stores in Ireland. Visit, Facebook @HealthStoresIreland

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