More and more brands are making it easier for customers to go plastic-free when shopping for groceries and household items, with alternatives such as this compostable cling wrap and these bamboo toothbrushes.
Bulk food stores have also become easier to find in Australian cities, offering scoop-and-weigh systems that let you fill up a paper pouch or your own jar from home, so you can minimise packaging.
However, not all bulk food stores offer ingredients like dried shiitake mushrooms, dashi powder and furikake seasoning – which is why Melbourne couple Jian Loh and Brian Ooi decided to open their own zero-waste online bulk-buy store, Naked Asian Grocer.
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“[Bulk food stores are] such a great concept,” says Loh. “But they don’t have the ingredients we usually use. We’re both from Malaysia – we migrated in 2008 – and Asian [ingredients] are very dominant in our cooking.”
With a large Asian population in Australia, the couple knew they wouldn’t be alone. Naked Asian Grocer stocks cha soba (thin soba infused with green tea), cinnamon bark, togarashi and Korean chilli powder. You’ll also find dried beans, anchovy, goji berries, sushi rice, palm sugar, panko and batter mixes for katsu.
The best part? There’s minimal single-use plastic packaging. And the store is committed to environmentally friendly deliveries.
“Nori sheets were tricky to find because they usually come wrapped individually, so we had to go above and beyond to find a supplier that can cater to bulk instead of just 500 grams or a kilo,” Loh says.
Customers can shop in bundles, too – there’s a noodle-soup kit for easy, umami-rich lunches in three easy steps, plus a pack with everything you need to make ba bao cha, or eight treasures tea.
Minimum quantities differ depending what you order. Sometimes it’s by the bunch, sometimes by weight, and in the case of some noodles, per serve. No matter what you buy, each ingredient is wrapped in a paper bag and everything is packaged together in cardboard.
However, since many ingredients are imported, Naked Asian Grocer is also committed to offsetting the business’s carbon emissions through not-for-profit organisation Greenfleet. And it sends all orders via Sendle, an Australian company that offsets 100 per cent of its carbon emissions.
Loh tells Broadsheet that, where possible, she and Ooi choose suppliers that don’t use much plastic either. “We’re still working with our suppliers to see if we can remove that extra layer,” she says.
For those in Melbourne, Naked Asian Grocer plans to open a bricks-and-mortar store in the city in the future. For now, take advantage of Australia-wide free shipping on all orders over $49.