The word “mother” recalls many adjectives in people’s minds: kind, gracious and loving, for instance. Even more profoundly, it reminds people of someone they can trust because a mother’s instincts will never steer you wrong. Also, mothers tend to make really good food. If you put those last two attributes together in retail form, you might just come up with a small Southern California chain that’s been providing good food that people can trust for the past 35 years.
Mother’s Market & Kitchen was founded by yoga enthusiasts and husband-and-wife Bruce and Sharon Macgurn. The couple opened an all-natural foods market and restaurant in Costa Mesa, Calif. It now operates seven Southern California locations serving more than 75,000 people a week. Five of its stores have full-service restaurants and each store has a fresh juice and smoothie bar. In addition to food, the markets offer vitamins, herbs, body care products and hard goods such as clothing and kitchenware that allow people to live all-naturally in every aspect of their lives.
It is grounded on its core values of truth, beauty and goodness translated into food form, and is committed to people with selective diets. In 1978 Mother’s Market became the vegetarian and vegan go-to option for nearby residents. However, as the battle of the bulge continues to be fought by everyone from elementary schools to the First Lady, larger retailers have taken notice.
“The natural foods industry in general faces greater competition as the mass markets try to incorporate more organic and natural products,” explains Mo George-Payette, COO and director of purchasing. “We are continuously reflecting on our core values and applying them into best practices to keep us in the forefront.”
For Mother’s Market, being a leader in this market doesn’t just mean staying on top of the latest best practices in natural foods, but actually helping to define what that means. Mother’s Market was a supporter of Proposition 37, also known as the California Right-to-Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. The proposition called for labeling on all products and foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, making it easier to shop for non-GMO products. Though it was defeated on California’s November ballot, Mother’s Market customers can rest assured that the business does its best to provide an array of non-GMO products while continuing to verify that every food stocked on its shelves labeled as non-GMO is in fact that.
“We screen all of our products,” George-Payette says. “I can’t count how many dozens and dozens of products we’ve sent back to manufacturers asking them to show certification on what type of sugar or canola oil they used. We carefully screen our products. They don’t automatically end up on the shelves just because it says it’s natural. ‘Natural’ has become a diluted word, so we dig deeper and definitely do our due diligence.”
Customer demand for non-GMO foods is a recent trend that Mother’s Market has stepped up to answer, and George-Payette explains that there are other niche foods – just like non-GMO – that are gaining ground. Some of these products, such as gluten-free, have made it into the large retailers’ stores. Others, such as raw food, are just outside of their radar. Mother’s Market, however, remains committed to serving all of these groups.
“We know that gluten-free is at an all-time high,” she says. “There’s also a lot of demand for non-GMO. Those are two really hot topics right now and they are just as hot as organic and raw foods. The raw food trend is looking for foods that are processed at lower heats so that the food retains its nutrients and all of its properties.”
Mother’s Market has established itself as a one-stop-shop for every niche, setting it apart from larger retailers. It also makes sure to stay price-competitive. The company-owned warehouse allows it to buy in volume. It also partners with local vendors and tries to open stores along convenient routes to save money as trucks travel from point A to point B.
“Keeping eating healthy affordable is important to us and the communities we serve,” George-Payette affirms. “We keep it that way by constantly evaluating the marketplace and partnering with our vendors to be able to offer the best prices to our customers.”
As the healthy-eating market continues to grow, so does Mother’s Market. Just like the food it carries, Mother’s Market has grown organically. It continues to operate its Costa Mesa location and has since followed up with markets in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Woods and Santa Ana. Its most recent stores in Anaheim Hills and Brea opened in 2009 and 2011, respectively. The stores range from 10,000 to 25,0000 square feet, and a few of the older markets are due for an upgrade.
The Huntington Beach location is being upgraded with new freezers, refrigerated doors, paint, flooring and a refreshed merchandising plan that will create better product organization and adjacencies. The Irvine location, which opened in 1996, will get the same treatment in its restaurant portion.
As Mother’s Market continues to update and revamp its locations, George-Payette explains that it will look for new opportunities to grow. “It depends on demand and location but as an organization we do grow organically,” she says. “We are always open to expand and open more stores.”