Bulk Barn

So, there’s this chain store in Canada called Bulk Barn. I had my first Bulk Barn experience the other day and I was amazed by the range of products they offer. As I walked up and down they aisles all I could think was why don’t we have something like this in the states? I would think that such a business would do well because of the obvious savings it offers consumers. I was surprised to find that Bulk Barn doesn’t sell reusable bulk bags. Plastic bags that hang over the bins are supplied to shoppers. They do stock a few glass jars but there are no weigh stations in the store. My friend and I were able to purchase a few goods in his reusable mesh produce bags brought from home, but I’m not sure if it would be possible to buy any of the liquid goods in any container other than the plastic tubs provided in the store.

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They stock a wide variety of bulk teas and coffees.

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Bulk cake decorating supplies.

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Bulk pet food!

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Even bulk bird seed…

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Liquid and paste bulk food products like garlic spread, pie filler, and nut butters are kept in tubs at the back of the store. Bar soaps and powdered cleaning supplies are also available, but they don’t stock any liquid soaps or cleaners.

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Bulk molases, corn syrup, and honey. Bulk Barn #5 plastic tubs are provided… perhaps customers could wash these containers at home and refill them? Seeing such a large variety of foods sold in bulk is exciting because choice having choice is always appealing. The dry bulk food bins are impressively large. I’ve often wished for a similar business near me, but I picture a place that sells all organic products with weigh stations at which customers can tare their own containers. The truth is that I can get what I need in bulk at my local co-ops and supporting small businesses is certainly the way I prefer to shop. It’s clear that reduced waste is not an objective that drives the Bulk Barn business. While working on these posts I read on some forums that people had trouble using their own bags at some store locations. I assume fear of violating health codes must be the reason for this… what a shame. Still, I’m always interested to see different systems for dispensing wet and dry bulk foods. The inside of this store was impeccably clean. No food was spilled anywhere. These stainless steel honey dispensers are very efficient appliances. It seems to me that personal containers would never have to come in contact with the food source. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get honey from dispensers like these in reusable jars at any local grocery store? These are the kinds of things I dream about.

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13 Responses to Bulk Barn

  1. elysia March 1, 2013 at 1:38 am #

    OMG, I am officially in love with your blog. I wish our local down to earth had this much things :(

  2. Jessica March 7, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    As an employee of Bulk Barn I can enlighten you on some of your questions about Bulk Barn.The reason why they do not allow people to bring in their own bags or containers is because of contamination that can occur. Lets say you scoop gluten free flour and put it in the bag you brought in, then you just realized you had too much in the bag so you needed to place some back, well what if the bag you had just brought in you previously had regular flour that contained wheat in it? Now you can not place that gluten free flour back because it has been contaminated with wheat from the regular flour that was in the bag before.So obviously this is very dangerous for the people with celiac disease so by stopping people from binging their own bags in it helps prevents contamination to the food and this can also go for people who have nut allergies.I do agree though that they should think of some sort of bags that are more environmentally friendly.Also every store does have a weigh in station they use hanging scales it is part of their policy usually the scales are located half way down the first aisle another one should be placed near the front where their seasonal aisle is which is usually the middle of the store and another one is located typically at the very back of the store but this all depends on the layout, but all stores are all generally laid out the same way. I hope I was helpful and was able too explain in detail on some of your questions?!?! :)

    • Chris August 29, 2013 at 3:45 am #

      Hi Jessica – do you have any idea where Bulk Barn gets its bins that hold the majority of their product? They used to look like brown paper on the outside but now they are black in the store near my house. The reason I ask is that I am doing a recycle program with some colleagues and these bins would be ideal for what we need. Thank you for your time.

  3. peter verbas August 30, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Hey great article there I wish they had one of those near my town would be a great help. Also if your looking to get more Bulk Containers have a look at this http://www.alisonhandling.com/pallet-boxes they have a massive variety of sizes. :)

  4. Francesca March 28, 2014 at 3:59 am #

    Hi, I’ve been to BulkBarn a few times and I, like you, fell in love with the concept.
    For a few weeks now, I’ve been trying to reduce my waste, recycling and other- following Bea Johnson in ZeroWaste. Somewhat like what you do…
    Just today, I went to BulkBarn all happy about my new goal, bringing with me my own homemade drawstring cotton bag… only to get to the cash, happy n’ smiling telling cashier about my use of reusable bag- and for her to tell me that I can’t do that. I actually was disappointed when she insisted I needed to use their bags, even when I insisted they were plastic… she said “yes, but they are recyclable and biodegradable if that helps the conscience”… well, no. it doesn’t. Although I understand the point of the previous user, I don’t agree. And i’m sad. *from a gluten-free eater

  5. Nessa July 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    I recently went to my local Bulk Barn and was also told that I was not able to use my reusable cotton bulk bags. When I asked why, the cashier explained because of cross contamination, and I can respect that, but I do not think it is a valid enough reason.

    I have personally seen customers use the SAME spoon in more than one container (cross contamination), and have also seen products mixed in with another product (obviously the product was accidentally spilled). Even the Kosher items have labels on them stating that the package was opened and could have come in contact with other products, voiding the Kosher ‘stamp.’ That in itself tells me the products are not 100% safe from cross contamination at the store level. So obviously these ‘sterile’ plastic bags do not prevent all this cross contamination that the Bulk Barn is so worried about. I personally think the plastic bags are a cheaper alternative to having paper bags or allowing people to use their own products.

    Walking into the Bulk Barn, the customer needs to assume that the products may have come into contact with other products. I have personally decided that their reasons are not good enough and will be traveling to a co-op for my bulk goods from now on.

    • Nessa July 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

      I forgot to mention – I also have food intolerance (no wheats of any kind (absolutely no gluten), I cannot eat certain fruits because I will react to them), and I still chose to get my groceries at Bulk Barn. I knew the risk and was always safe.

  6. Eric July 17, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    For all of you interested in motivating Bulk Barn to change its policy and offer a paper, re-useable or other alternative to plastic please sign this petition.

    Thanks!

    https://www.change.org/p/bulk-barn-food-limied-to-offer-an-environmentally-conscious-option-to-their-consumers?recruiter=16282742&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&sharecordion_display=control

  7. Lauren Maki October 11, 2015 at 3:11 am #

    I wish Bulk Barn used paper bags at least.

  8. Helen McCarthy November 13, 2015 at 12:51 am #

    I get *most* of my dry bulk goods from a local health food store, but the local Bulk Barn is still the only place for Oil and some other liquid products. As of yet I havent done this, but I plan to when I get my act together, to wash and reuse their bulk barn stamped #5 plastic containers for those products. This way at least I am only ever using the same ones over and over again until there is another option. (I guess this technically wouldnt be allowed…but how would they ever know?) *sneakyenvironmentalist*
    You could also do the same with the bags, just sharpie what you had in it, and reuse the same plastic bags…but that requires a level of organization I do not possess.

  9. Annie June 29, 2016 at 11:18 pm #

    I went to Bulk Barn today and got rejected to use my own jars. And I found this webpage and realized not few people have my problems too. So I signed in for the petition, hoping one day I can bring my own jars and bags to have a wonderful shopping experience!

  10. hg January 20, 2017 at 10:44 pm #

    http://www.bulkbarn.ca/en/Project-Waste-Free

    • Susan March 27, 2017 at 8:07 pm #

      They have done it!! they have a reusable packaging program – in store or bring your own. Glass – Organic Cotton Bulk bags…amazing!!!

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